I love baseball, but I also worry about how the game will attract younger fans. TV ratings make it clear that American football now dominates baseball for viewership. Baseball also shoots itself in the foot when it schedules its most compelling games – October, post-season contests – in prime time for East Coast fans. These games can last three and a half hours or more, making it all but impossible for kids to stay awake to see the ending.
In spite of the competition and itself, baseball hasn’t reached a point of no return. Mobile marketers employed by baseball teams can still re-engage younger fans, especially at ballparks.
I saw this announcement last week that shows how mobile and social technology can join with video screens in stadiums to engage fans. While the announcement doesn’t give specifics about how it will work or in what context, I can imagine all sorts of fantastic mobile marketing and implementation ideas that would bring us closer to the game and avoid anything that might detract from the stadium experience.
Here, then, are three ways I’d love to see baseball stadiums engage more fans and make watching the game more fun via mobile.
- Lure us back into keeping score: Keeping score teaches the game more effectively than anything else. Plus, it gives scorekeepers a chance to record history in the event of no hitters or hitting for the cycle (neither of which I’ve ever seen in person). Unfortunately, almost no one scores games anymore. Teams should encourage fans to keep score by inviting them to use apps to indicate if they think a play should be scored a hit or error or by answering multiple choice questions about the correct scoring of a play. Awarding winners free stuff and putting their names on the big stadium scoreboard would get a lot more people scoring the game.
- Get me to the shortest concession stand and bathroom lines: The ball club owner’s goal has to be creating more passionate fans who will spend more on game tickets, souvenirs, food and time watching the team at home. The way to do that is to keep the fan in her seat for much of the game as possible. A mobile app feature that got me to the concession stands and bathrooms with the shortest lines would help achieve this.
- Don’t tell me to look at my phone during a play: If you give me a reason to look away from the game during a play, it will be harder to get me to look back at the field. Emails, texts, games, and all the other things that can make phones useful can become competition for attention at the ballpark. Save the invitations to engage via our apps to time between innings, pitching changes or substitutions, and during replays. This has big implications for the user experience, which has to enable fans to complete tasks quickly enough to avoid missing anything happening on the field.
Maybe I worry needlessly; stadium attendance is slightly up, year over year. Still, baseball once was America’s undisputed favorite sport. There are few indications that this is the case today. Mobile and social technology can’t fix everything, but they can make game day at the ballpark more fun and help cement a zaniness for the game in future generations.