Baseball’s Marketing Issues

Maury lists ten reasons why you don’t see ballplayers shilling for as many companies as you do football or basketball players. This one is pretty interesting:

Baseball can rightfully say that it has the most player diversity starting in games than any other US pro sports league. Some of MLB’s biggest stars are Latinos or from the Far East. The problem is television ad execs have yet to see the full potential of such players. A good example is Albert Pujols, someone that should translate well to the camera, but has not been used as a pitchman. Others include Ichiro Suzuki and David Ortiz. In terms of Far East athletes, maybe ad execs figure Yao Ming is enough. As for the Latin players, it seems a vast demographic isn’t being fully tapped.

It does seem rather strange that with the Hispanic demographic growing as quickly as it is in this country that we don’t see more Hispanic ballplayers doing endorsements. And don’t tell me the language barrier is an issue. Michael Jordan’s first dozen Nike and Gatorade commercials consisted of him just looking intense or dunking while Spike Lee or whoever did all the talking.

Maybe a more practical baseball marketing problem: unlike basketball, baseball’s in-game products (shoes, clothes, etc.) aren’t really the kinds of things you’d wear on the street, so the in-action stuff isn’t an option. It’s the sort of thing that leads to Orel Hershisher and those old Pert commercials where he talked about taking five showers a day or whatever it was.

Yeah, those were disturbing.

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  1. Aaron Moreno said...

    I think a significant factor in the lack of advertising is that there are a lot of “Latin” players but not many Mexican players. It’s easy to gloss over, but Mexicans don’t love Latin players any more than the Japanese love Asian players.

  2. Randy said...

    Perhaps the lack of parity in the league results in fewer players having enough exposure to be worthy of national advertising. Shaq can survive anywhere, Peyton, too. But take your favorite player and put him on a small market team that can’t get above .500 and see how much interest he generates. I wonder how many 09 All-Stars would be candidates for national advertising.

    Tennis/Racing: they aren’t tied to a team so it may be easier to promote them.

    I very much agree that promoting a player’s college experience (or hometown/country) would help generate interest in the game. Football does a great job of this. Baseball hasn’t, and with the gap between the draft and MLB seemingly getting smaller now is a great opportunity to incorporate it. It’s not like the announcers don’t have the time to say someone went to “X” college and whether they played in the CWS.

  3. Tom said...

    Aaron Moreno is correct. Mexico will not idolize a Latin player. Fernando-mania was ignored in the Dominican Republic, so it is a 2 way issue. It’s a shame, as Pujols, Johann Santana, Mike Lowell, and Ortiz, among many others, are outstanding representatives of this, my favorite sport.

  4. Jeff said...

    Luis Gonzalez does local ads in Arizona and Big Papi does the same in Boston. Seems to me the lack of national media exposure (most games are only aired locally) prevents most of these guys from being relevant outside their local markets.

  5. Greg Simons said...

    “Until there are more baseball players with gangsta tattoos, baseball will be under-represented in marketing.”

    If that’s the requirement, let baseball be under-represented in marketing forever.  I find all that ink on NBA players’ necks rather repulsive.

  6. Ethan Stock said...

    You state the street-wearability of basketball clothing as if it were natural and unchangeable, not something that has exploded since the NBA brought in marketing gurus in the 1980s.  No one wore basketball clothing on the street in 1979.  Baseball could do the same. 

    However you’re missing the bigger issue here:  There aren’t enough inner-city kids playing baseball in America, so there aren’t enough inner-city MLB players, so baseball can’t connect to the urban youth culture that is such a powerful marketing force across basketball but also football.  Big green baseball fields aren’t practically available in urban America.  Until there are more baseball players with gangsta tattoos, baseball will be under-represented in marketing.

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