Baseball Reflections

Strategies for Reaching Younger Fans

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The millennial generation has ushered in a dramatic changing of the guard within American culture. Gone are the days of corded phones, long walks to school, and lazy Sunday afternoons. In their place, millennials have embraced a slew of new beliefs and habits, largely driven by an incoming tide of technology, social justice, and an overall global mindset.

This change has been partly by choice and partly by necessity, but regardless of the causes, the shift initially led many to question if the millennial generation was killing off America’s pastime.

A Problem

For years now, many have cited concerns with the dwindling MLB fan base. These concerns tend to focus on things like the fact that MLB games are expensive to attend, contract disputes make it difficult to watch live, and the games themselves have become a several-hour-long affair.

To the great dismay of baseball doomsayers everywhere, though, this trend towards obscurity has recently begun shifting from fact to fallacy. Arriving in the millennial wake, Generation Z has made a solid argument in recent years that baseball is not, in fact, dead. Nor is it even dying.

There are several reasons behind this apparent course reversal. Some are obvious while others are a bit nuanced, but all of them point towards a brighter future for MLB fans everywhere. Here are a few thoughts on just why baseball seems to be poised for a renaissance in the American sports world.

Focusing on the Next Generation

As Gen Zers are making abundantly clear, the foundation of the future of baseball doesn’t lie in older fans clinging to the “good ‘ol days.” It lies in the lap of America’s youth. If baseball is to thrive in the future, it must continue to cultivate the youth of today who will fill up the ranks of the baseball faithful tomorrow.

This is done through participation in activities baseball and softball leagues, community pickup games, and that age-old classic: playing catch with your parents. It also means baseball must become a family affair once again. Dad shouldn’t disappear into his man cave when the game starts. The television should be turned on and everyone, parents and children alike, should be invited to participate in the experience.

Addressing Social Causes

Along with exposing America’s youth to the joys of baseball, the MLB must continue to adapt to the expectations and interests of the current generations. Millennials and Gen Zers are devotedly concerned with things like the environment and social justice.

To take the latter as an example, four out of ten baseball players aren’t white at this point, which is a very representative number. However, the MLB must continue to make diversity a priority by extending it off the field, into the staffing and broadcast booths, and behind the scene in every way possible.

Getting Social

Another way that the MLB is currently adapting to its younger fanbase is by focusing on its online operations. Social media, in particular, is being utilized to reach new fans via:

  • Live broadcasts of games and baseball-related shows on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
  • Voting for fan-favorite at-bats.
  • Partnering with brands online.
  • Allowing MLB players to use previously restricted highlights on their own social feeds.

If the MLB continues to capitalize on this social media initiative by utilizing things like engagement-focused text and imagery that catches the eye, they’ll be able to continue carving out their own corner of the social media market.

This will enable them to reach a younger consumer base with bite-size information and short clips and highlight reels tailored to the limited attention span of the modern audience. However, Major League Baseball must also be careful not to overstep with these initiatives. Monitoring children’s’ activity online is a current concern of most parents, and the MLB must be careful to keep all of their content as family-friendly as it is attractive.

Shifting Priorities

Another more subtle factor that is likely helping baseball out is the shift in cultural sports standards. While the NFL has hogged the spotlight for a while now, that sport has come under steady pressure from ex-players and activists alike, all of whom want to eliminate the dangerous elements of the game.

With a game like football, though, violence is woven so deeply into the sport that it’s difficult to weed it out without getting rid of the game entirely. Fortunately, this focus on health and safety has a naturally positive trickle-down effect for less violent sports like soccer …and baseball.

Don’t Change the Game, But Please Change the Experience

While some of these factors are already happening, many are still largely theoretical in nature — or at the least, they haven’t been properly endorsed as much as they should. If the MLB wants to remain alive and well in the years and decades ahead, though, they must continue to make efforts like these to change the way fans experience the game itself.

This isn’t a push to change baseball. A sport as old as this deserves to be left intact and whole. However, the way the sport is enjoyed can and should shift with the times. Serving up highlights on social media, focusing on the safety elements, and shining a spotlight on social justice issues are all ways that baseball can continue to recruit the modern youth into its fanbase.

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