I’m not the biggest baseball fan. I grew up playing Little League, but never caught a passion for it. I don’t hold loyalty to an MLB team, and rarely possess the demeanor to watch baseball on TV. The pace of the game was always a bit of a turn-off and I view baseball much further behind football and basketball in entertainment value.
But this World Series has been different. I’ve been captivated by it.
I’ve tuned in to every game and have been drawn into the story lines and history of the competing teams like never before. Yes, I can barely follow the commentary of “sliders” or “four-seamers”, but the early-game drama of the World Series has sucked me in. The ratings show I’m not the only one. Game 5 beat Sunday Night Football last week by a whooping 32%. People care and are watching.
There seems to be something deeper to this 2016 World Series. And marketers would be wise to take notice. Hidden between the myriad of storylines and excitement of the games are two crucial reminders on how consumers behave and what powers impactful marketing.
People Still Want To Rally Behind A Cause
It is remarkable how millions of households are swept up in the World Series excitement and the “sports city” causes of Chicago or Cleveland. We can’t help ourselves. It doesn’t seem right that a city such as Chicago could experience a baseball championship drought for over 100 years. Essentially, the rally cry has become “join us as we right history and take back what should be ours.” Cleveland shares in this as their drought is pushing 70 years, and fans feel it is their time.
A bit excessive? Probably. But this is the point. People want to rally behind a cause.
People want to rally alongside causes that are bigger than themselves and will join causes that carry a perceived justness in their mission. Marketers have known this for decades and continue to align with causes, usually charitable, in order to capitalize on this innate consumer desire. Surveys have shown over 70% of people would recommend a brand
that supports a good cause over one that doesn’t. A few skeptics might question a brand’s motive in cause marketing, but when done well it is a win-win situation for both sides. The cause benefits and the brand drives meaningful connections with the cause’s followers. For an example of a tightly integrated cause marketing campaign, check out the H&R Block Budget Challenge
Marketers must never forget that consumers want to rally, and still do rally, around causes, teams and campaigns. Our role is to help spark these rallies and often this is done through powerful storytelling, something this year’s World Series is nailing.
Stories Drive Engagement, and Stories Need Characters.
One of my main take-away’s from six nights of World Series watching is how connected I start to feel with the athletes on both teams. Baseball is one of those sports where the personal athlete gets a lot of individual face time. There is no facemask to hide behind (sorry catcher), and when their number is called, all the cameras focus on them. We know their face, position, stats, hometown and how a pitcher should beat them. Yes, we notice the playoff beards, or how stoic these pitchers act. We start to form opinions on them. We like them, or we don’t.
Why do we like to do this? Well, we like characters. We like personalities and they draw us into the storyline we are following.
Marketers too often lose sight of this. We start drifting away from the truth that storytelling is vital for effective marketing. The stories are what drives engagement. The stories are what personifies a brand or campaign. The stories are what trigger our emotions and why my “want to buy a new watch” turns into my “need to buy a new watch”. The stories are everything.
And stories need characters.
MLB baseball and Fox (who is broadcasting the series) get this. They focus tirelessly on bringing the characters to life – panning to the Dad in the crowd or the highlight pieces from batting practice- to help draw the audience in. They do this because stories drive engagement and stories need characters.
At Jersey Watch
we are working on improving our storytelling with brands and marketers and the bulk of our improvements are centering on the characters we need to flush out. The young families, the busy soccer moms, the passionate youth sports fans. If we can develop our characters better, telling our marketing story and why a brand should work with us, will become much easier. It is something we are working at, and this World Series offers a great reminder to the importance of this work. Stay tuned for the results in a few weeks.
Bottom Line On Tonight’s Game 7?
Yes, you should watch tonight. It should be electric. The characters are going to perform, the audience will rally and we all will get to enjoy a few live marketing reminders in the midst of one of the best sports dramas we have seen. Go Tribe!