Monday, June 26, 2023

Branding and Marketing Lessons from Baseball

If you're a baseball fan, today is an important day. If you're not a fan of America's pastime, read on because there will be some unexpected branding and marketing lessons, and you might surprise yourself and become interested in baseball.

Baseball fans honor Abner Doubleday today, because he was born on this date in 1819. Although he was a career United States Army officer and Union general during the American Civil War, he also obtained the patent on the cable car railway that runs in San Francisco to this day. However, he is most widely known as the inventor of the game of baseball in Cooperstown, New York, in 1839.

So, as we celebrate Abner Doubleday and baseball, I’d like to introduce you to Brett Rudy from Boston. We recently discussed branding, marketing, and baseball, and highlights follow a brief introduction.

Brett Rudy is a marketing trailblazer with 20 years of experience in driving successful marketing campaigns. He combines creative flair, new technologies, and data-driven insights to deliver outstanding results. He's led marketing for many established brands, including Gillette, Toys R Us, Grand Circle Travel, and MedSchoolCoach. Brett's innovative spirit extends beyond his day job, where his passion for baseball allowed him to co-found the 100 Innings of Baseball for ALS, the Cooperstown Classic at the Baseball Hall of Fame, and Winterball for Toys for Tots. When he's not working, he can be found playing in the Boston Metro Baseball League.

QUESTION: You're a marketing pro and a serious baseball fan, so what do you think about the updated baseball uniforms that align with specific holidays such as Memorial Day, Mother's Day, and Father's Day? Do they succeed at telling a story, or are they simply another way to sell more branded/team stuff?

BRETT RUDY: Without question, custom baseball jerseys for holidays and unique events are clever ways of selling more merchandise. If a fan already has a home and away jersey, the only real way to create more demand is to come up with variations that fans would enjoy. As a Boston native, the Red Sox green jerseys for St. Patrick's Day, and the yellow Boston jerseys released for Marathon Monday as part of the City Series to celebrate Boston Strong, are quite popular.

Teams must love free agency. Whenever a player gets traded, their old uniform becomes a collector's item, and the new player who takes their place has new merchandise that the team may offer. Maybe MLB could offer uniforms using velcro to attach player names to jerseys, making it effortless for fans to switch player names whenever they want!

From a branding perspective, it's unclear whether changing uniforms frequently reinforces the product on the field – especially when done philanthropically. For example, although wearing pink ribbons on Mother's Day and baby blue ribbons on Father's Day are designed to increase awareness of breast and prostate cancer, it is doubtful that this approach is effective. There is already near 100% awareness. Plus, these color schemes reinforce outdated social norms. Instead, MLB should consider hosting more events designed to raise money and wipe out these diseases, rather than simply paying homage to them by changing colors.

(Here are some posts on the subject:

QUESTION: I read a post on Forbes that presented Major League Baseball's 10 Biggest Marketing Problems. What do you think about the list, and why do you think people prefer football over baseball?

(Here's the post:

BRETT RUDY: Just to be clear, in the US, about 32% more people play baseball than football (15.6 million than 11.8 million). However, perhaps your question is about WATCHING football. In 2022, the NFL had 18.8 million attend games. In comparison, MLB paid attendance was 64.6 million last year – about 3.5x greater than football. So I think what you are REALLY asking is why people watch any given football game. That's easy – there are very few games, so each game has a lot of meaning. People love violence, and tackling is violent. And people love tailgating, because it is an excuse to drink.

However, I actually wrote a better article than the one written by Forbes about why marketing is really hurting baseball - here's the link:

In short,
 - Ballplayers Are Playing More Baseball, So Are Too Busy to Attend
 - The Seats Look Empty, Making the Game Look Boring
 - Buying Tickets Is Harder Than Negotiating a Used Car
 - Instant Replay Suggests that the Onfield Product Is No Good
 - Discussing Athlete Salaries Is Exploiting How Expensive the Game Is

All the recent rule changes to bigger bases, the pitch clock, player starting on second base in extra innings, and no intentional walks were all designed to make the game faster and more exciting. However, what the new rules are really doing is reinforcing to casual fans that there is a problem with the game. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The problem is a marketing one.

QUESTION: What do you think about the jersey advertising patches that will become commonplace on baseball jerseys during the 2023 season?

BRETT RUDY: In Boston, the Red Sox ARE the brand. Putting another logo over their existing logo (which is in fact the entire uniform) is lack of understanding what the brand it. It takes attention of the Red Sox uniform and puts it on a third party brand. That may not have a good long term effect.

If the objective is to generate more ad revenue, sell half as much real estate and then double the price – in other places. Like TV.

For example, if television commercials were cut in half, a viewer's likelihood of remembering any given commercial could potentially double. Plus, shorter ads would mean fans would be less likely to run to the bathroom, because they might miss the game – so they'd be watching more of the commercials. Each brand would also have a greater share of voice. With all this occurring, price per ad could actually be doubled, because over the course of the game, each brand would be spending the exact same. Yet, the fan experience would be better.
(Here's more info:

QUESTION: What are your three fave brands, and why?

BRETT RUDY: Right now, my favorite brand is HubSpot. At its core, HubSpot is CRM software. Whether in sales or marketing, it is easy to use. And it just works.

What sets HubSpot apart is where they go beyond. Their customer support is beyond what other brands provide. You can chat, text, or email them. You get a professional who truly is an expert to respond to you in typically a minute or two. They are super helpful.

Their marketing is perfect. Their Inbound event draws marketers from across the world with top speakers. It is educational, insightful, and more fun than any event I've been to. Big fan of HubSpot.

I'm also going to go with MLB. Even though baseball has a lot of marketing opportunities, MLB must be doing something right if they've kept me engaged for 40+ years in the sport.

And I can't believe I'm going to say this, but number three has to be Twitter, right? How can you spend an hour a day on a service that doesn't truly stimulate you – for better or for worse. It's where we met for this article, even. Are there things Twitter could do better? Of course. But the ability for people to meet and talk on any topic is unparalleled.

SHARE THIS: On Twitter, the ability for people to meet and talk on any topic in unparalleled. ~@bkrudy #Twitter #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: A fun interview question is often, "If you could dine with five people, from history or real life, who would you choose and why?" I wrote a post featuring an inspiring list of 15 people - including Jackie Robinson. Who would you invite to your dinner party, and why?

BRETT RUDY: I've had the opportunity to have dinner with baseball legends such as Ernie Banks and Mike Schmidt, and drink wine with dozens of others – though not all at once. All were through work I did with Charity Wines, raising money for these athletes' charities based on wine sales. What I found most amazing is that they were just regular people, each with their own personalities and unique stories. They just happen to be a whole lot better at baseball than I ever was or will be.

If I could have dinner with three other people I've never met, Howard Stern would be amazing. Even though he claims to be super quiet in real life, I think he is remarkably insightful and clever. He is also a marketing genius, though he does so invisibly. How else could you have a #1 selling book, #1 selling movie, #1 TV show, and #1 radio show, all in the same career?

Steve Jobs had the ability to create a product simply and find a way to market it to people who didn't even know they needed it, which is amazing. He created entirely new categories. I need to get into his mind.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin are other people I would like to have dinner with. The fact that a brand can have so many products used by more than a billion people is unreal. From Google Search, Google Maps, Gmail, Google Sheets, Google Drive – I don't even know where the list ends. I need to better understand how this empire was built!

Okay, I know that's four.

(Read the full post here:

QUESTION: What does this quote mean to you? “Give something of meaning to your audience by inspiring, engaging, and educating them with story. Stop marketing. Start storytelling. ~@StorytellerAgcy”

BRETT RUDY: The best marketing is invisible. If you don't even know you are being marketed to, it is most effective. When a brand engages you and inspires you, that's a brand I want to be a part of. When a brand has a story that is compelling, that's something I want to listen to. When they are providing the education that I need, that is helpful. Content marketing in this way is better than a banner ad. That's why almost nobody clicks on them anymore. Brands can do better. And the ones that do are part of your life.

SHARE THIS: The best marketing is invisible. ~@bkrudy #MarketingTip #BrandingTip #BrandExperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog

My gratitude and appreciation to Brett for sharing his inspiring perspective about branding, marketing, and of course, baseball! However, I must end by adding, GO DODGERS!

Connect with Brett at these links:

Brett spends his days at MedSchoolCoach:
Brett spends the rest of his time at Baseball Life:
Brett spends some time during each day on Twitter:

Image Credit: iStock.

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