“Take Me Out to the Ballgame” may be in need of a major rewrite, at least if Major League Baseball’s most recent marketing initiative- MLB Food Fest– is any indication. Peanuts and Cracker Jacks had no business being here, at the league’s first inaugural MLB Food Fest held in New York City on April 21st and 22nd. The event- one of the latest, more innovative marketing efforts by MLB- was a celebration of some of the more creative, unique items offered at concession stands around the league designed to generate interest and excitement around the game- er, at least the grub available at the game.
All 30 teams got to choose one item available at their stadium to feature on the menu and showcase at the two-day event, shining a spotlight on one of the newer, more delicious reasons for fans to get excited about going out and actually attending a game. Judging by the crowd and attendees we spoke to at the event, fans absolutely ate the idea up.
MLB Senior Vice President of Marketing Barbara McHugh and her team concocted the idea, “based on a trend seen around the league. Food has become such a unique part of the baseball experience…” Of course, there are still the “baseball staples” like hot dogs, peanuts, and Cracker Jacks widely available, but concession stand menus don’t just stop there. Clubs have started featuring their own, unique “signature items” at their stadiums based on local flavors and themes.
MLB’s marketing team realized that it would be great to give fans an opportunity to, “sample all 30 unique items under one roof…especially since most never get a chance to make their way to every ballpark around the league.” Putting the Food Fest together required, “working closely with all 30 teams, which got to pick their own favorite food selection to showcase at the event.”
Beyond that, MLB really went the extra mile to work with each stadium’s concessionaires to make the experience as authentic and genuine as possible. This close collaboration on everything from ingredients and recipe to preparation and presentation was key to make sure the Food Fest would give fans “literally a taste of all 30,” McHugh said.
More importantly, the entire thing was designed to be an EXPERIENCE. There was a real emphasis on, “making sure the Fest was social, interactive, and immersive,” which makes perfect sense as that continues to become the way we navigate life and consume content today. MLB marketing has done a great job recognizing the importance of staying on the forefront in fans’ minds by finding new, innovative ways to meet and engage the audience “where they are” via the social communication everybody has grown so familiar with today; especially the younger generation.
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Walking around the venue felt like being immersed in a gigantic baseball-themed Instagram playground. Everything from the writing heading up to the stairs to the napkins with clever quippy sayings featured the hashtag #MLBFoodFest, and practically screamed for posting and sharing.
McHugh actually mentioned that MLB took great care to, “design the space with photos, videos, and social in mind…inviting fans to share pictures not only of the food, but also the experience…whether it be the popcorn ball-pit for fans to jump into, the hot dog seesaw to ride on…” or the bleacher seating and clubhouse decor surrounding attendees doing their snacking.
The entire Food Fest event was created to emphasize to customers that Major League Baseball can be fun and exciting and that there’s really no substitute for getting out and going to the actual games. When asked about the marketing initiative’s success, McHugh said, “There was a good mix among the crowd of core, casual, and avid baseball fan; and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, so we’re excited to evaluate the experience and see what’s next.”
After having a chance to attend the MLB Food Fest, we can emphatically say the event was definitely a hit! The entire experience was fun, unique, exciting, engaging, interactive, and left people talking for days. That’s precisely what Major League Baseball needs their marketing to be as the sport strives to stay relevant in an increasingly crowded sports and entertainment landscape.