How technology helped Major League Baseball field a more cohesive marketing team

Barbara McHugh January 2019 Programmatic, Data & Measurement

Major League Baseball Senior VP of Marketing Barbara McHugh shares how operating as one team with one platform is a victory for the league, its teams, and its fans.

The marketing team at Major League Baseball is like an agency with 30 different clients and hundreds of campaigns running at once. We support more than 2,500 games a season, marketing all elements of the league, including global events and social media.

With so many efforts to support games, plus special initiatives, including international games in places like Japan, Mexico, England, and Puerto Rico, and the annual Little League Classic, we have to be fast and flexible. That also gives us the opportunity to learn something new every day. In 2018, three key digital marketing lessons stood out for me.

It takes one team under one roof

To score wins, we need teamwork. But in the past, we had multiple marketing teams working in silos that prevented them from working together effectively, which sometimes led to redundant efforts.

To break down barriers, we brought the media, creative, and data teams — who were sitting in different offices — under one roof. So now, when one person or one team makes a discovery, they can turn around and work with other teams immediately. For example, if we see that some fans respond better to messages that feature the ballpark experience, we can immediately apply this insight across similar audiences.

Collaboration is key

Bringing the marketing teams closer together is only half the solution. Giving them the tools to work together is the other half. In the past, we had multiple teams using multiple products, and this made collaboration more challenging. For our paid media campaigns, we use Google Marketing Platform, which streamlines workflow and collaboration for both advertising and analytics. This integrated platform approach was probably the best move we could have made to create efficiencies and save time.

This integrated platform approach was probably the best move we could have made to create efficiencies and save time.

For example, using one platform helped us to be more efficient with our campaigns for our One Baseball initiative. This effort aims to reach a new generation of fans by uniting Major League Baseball with other baseball groups, from Little League to the USA Baseball national team. When a message or a promotion works well in, say, Cleveland, it can be immediately shared and tailored to markets like Chicago or Los Angeles. With all marketing teams working in one platform, we can see in real time which messages resonate and quickly scale them across different initiatives to improve engagement with local fan bases.

We are saving three weeks’ worth of time each month just on reporting. Now we can use that time to focus on what matters most.

By the end of the season, we estimated we are saving three weeks’ worth of time each month just on reporting. Now we can use that time to focus on what matters most: strategy, optimisations, and leveraging analytics and insights from our campaigns.

Focus on the customer

The path to purchase is constantly changing, and we’ve discovered that the only way we can keep up is to be more customer-focused than ever. Whether that means content creation or ticket sales, we’ve been using technology to focus on our fans and do it at scale.

A simple example: We used to run very long video ads to squeeze in all the information we wanted our fans to know. But thanks to the data we’re gleaning from Google Marketing Platform, we are able to see that this isn't the type of content our customers really want to engage with. When we began to cut the length of our video ads and focus on one message, such as a winning streak or a specific player, the performance metrics showed an immediate rise in engagement. Now we’re doing a similar analysis for all our digital video ads.

As much as we learned in 2018, we think we’ve only scratched the surface. The efficiencies will continue to evolve, and so will our own approach to teamwork and collaboration.

That’s the good thing about having 2,500 games a year: Each day presents new opportunities to engage fans and build an affinity that lasts a lifetime.

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