MLB Hits a Home Run with Fan Engagement

Paul Reifenstein    October 16, 2013


At a baseball game you can heckle the opposition, yell at an umpire for blowing a call, or even get on your own team’s case for making a bad play.  It gets a little awkward when this happens in the privacy of your own living room, but sometimes it’s needed.  Thank goodness for social media.  You no longer need to simply yell at your TV.

Social media has brought the ability to engage with Major League Baseball (MLB), its teams, and its players to a whole new level.  Are you a diehard Chicago Cubs fan and can’t stand that team from the South Side reigning on your parade?  Post your (appropriate) thoughts on the Chicago rivalry on the White Sox Facebook page. Unhappy with the Red Sox second baseman striking out to end the game? Send him a tweet and let him know how you feel – @15Lasershow.  Tired of MLB taking it’s sweet time to adopt instant replay? Post a picture of your displeasure on Instagram with #mlbofficial.

The teams in the MLB have done a great job of allowing fans to become more involved in the game than ever before.  The creation of the MLB Fan Cave has been credited with re-energizing the interest of young fans and bringing a new dynamic with which they can relate to.  In the blog post by Todd Wasserman, about the first season of the MLB Fan Cave the comparison to playing a video game and watching a sporting event showed the need for a game-changer.  Why continue watching a ball game when you can go play one on your own in HD?  With the Fan Cave, MLB answered the call.  Within 10 months, MLB had 1.3 billion media impressions and 250,000 combined new fans on Facebook and Twitter.  Inserting baseball into the conversation around the “digital water cooler” was what lead to its early success online says Tim Brosnan, MLB’s EVP of business.

As we conclude the 2013 baseball season, Fan Engagement looked at the Best 5 Social Media Campaigns in MLB for Driving Fan Engagement and the league has truly hit one out of the park.  MLB teams are taking it upon themselves to invest time and (a lot) of money into their fan engagement strategies in order to bring new fans to the game and allow seasoned vets the opportunity to become even more involved in their addiction love.

A couple of great examples are from the Chicago Cubs engaging the die-hards.

And The Philadelphia Phillies opening up the possibility for new fans to see a live game.

MLB has left the confines of the stadium, moved past simple TV commercials and has inserted itself into the personal side of baseball and into the cities where the teams reside.  However, even as these new and innovative engagement methods are being employed by MLB teams across the league, there is still room for improvement.  An interesting aspect to remember is that most of the major sports have a finite window to reach their fans at theirs peak interest.  For example, baseball is not going to be very successful with regards to fan engagement in January, but the NHL is probably at it’s peak at that time of year.  And even when baseball is at its peak time of engagement, there is still an opportunity for more.

Bryan Srabian, the Social Media Director for the San Francisco Giants reminds us that, “Twitter is a two-way medium, not a broadcast medium so be ready to engage with fans not just shout at them.”  So now is the time for teams of the MLB to step up to the plate even more.  The goal should be to create an online experience for fans, rather than simply to market the latest promotion at the ballpark.  One of the key approaches?  Tweet back to your fans!

Looking at 8 MLB teams, they had an average of 1,546 mentions per day.  With a number like that, one would like to see more than just an 8 tweets per day average from those teams.  Take a page from Srabian’s book and make sure the social media experience is a two way street. Just don’t mess it up!

I can’t imagine the MLB (and other major sports for that matter) being content with the status quo as relating to social media strategy.  Tapping into the younger generation of fans and retaining current fans has been and always will be top priority off the field.  As with any other business, the key factor with be to continue to be innovative in their approach and taking ongoing feedback into consideration to become better.

Lessons Learned

  1. It’s not just about spamming fans/followers with posts on social media sites, but getting creative on ways to engage with them and make their experience even better.  
  2. The MLB, NBA, and NFL are TERRIBLE at engaging with fans on Twitter beyond promoting the sport’s brand and everything that follows.  Whoever dedicates the time and energy to truly communicate with fans will have won the day.
  3. *The “Aha” Moment – There are definitely peak times in which a sport will have really engaged fans and then times where fan engagement is at its low.  How can there be year round engagement?


The Twitter Games:  MLB, NBA, NFL Engagement Compared

Best 5 Social Media Campaigns in MLB for Driving Fan Engagement

How Two “Cave” Men Brought Major League Baseball into the Social Media Age

Worst MLB All-Star Game Candidate Promotions on Twitter

Submitted by: Paul Reifenstein – SMBP Student, University of Waterloo.  To contact the author of this blog post, please email

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.