THIS WEEK'S PICK | MLB'S NEXT AT-BAT
The 90th annual MLB All-Star Game was held in Cleveland last week. It was a few days of fun for the league and its fans, but outside of the electrifying Home Run Derby that featured a record-smashing performance by Blue Jays rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr., interest in the Classic continued to slide, mirroring MLB's overall trend of declining attendance.
The timing of the event certainly did not help, taking place right after a whirlwind first week of the NBA free agency window. That week was a frenzy of activity, with teams fighting for players as soon as the window opened and significant paydays announced for many of the free agents. A buzz still lingers around some of those deals, fueling anticipation for the competition fans will witness in the coming season. Unfortunately, that buzz is a far cry from what has been happening in baseball, where free agency has been known to stretch on for months, with many free agents left unsigned through Spring Training with few (or no) bidders and shockingly small contracts signed in the last moments before Opening Day. This is a problem linked to a bigger one in baseball: dwindling excitement. Excitement is crucial to attract and maintain a fan base and right now, that excitement is getting harder to generate.
MLB is trying. Recent years have seen the implementation of pace of play rules and mics on players during the All-Star Game. The mics are great fun in a game with no stakes, but could be a serious distraction during regular season games where every win matters. Yet, it could be a great way to facilitate connection for fans and promote the profile of players, if only for an inning or two in every series. It was an absolute delight to be able to hear Freddie Freeman's cheerful at-bat against Justin Verlander and experience the humanity of the players and fun of the game.
Fostering that fan-player connection will be key in light of the small market for endorsements for the average baseball player; the few that do exist are usually snapped up by the game's superstars like Verlander and Bryce Harper. Much of the rest of the industry is dominated by basketball and soccer players who have shorter seasons and more flexibility to do appearances, so it will be up to MLB to come up with new ways to promote its players. Luckily, there is a lengthy roster of both established and up-and-coming stars with exceptional playing abilities and sparkling personalities to match, and stars fuel interest in the game, especially with children.
This is something to keep in mind as talk resurfaces of MLB introducing sponsor patches onto jerseys in the next few years. Attention begets value, and the value of a patch (current speculation has the inventory valued at $8 million) will not rise if baseball's audience continues to lose interest. We know the magic of a summer night at the ballpark; let's hope MLB finds a new way to invite and entice people to be a part of that magic again.
CLIENTS IN THE NEWS
Kia Nurse is a WNBA All-Star for the very first time! Kia was named to the All-Star roster as a starter on July 11. The WNBA All-Star Game will take place in Las Vegas on July 27. Congratulations, Kia!
Kate Beirness is hosting the third annual Her Mark Summit on July 20. The Her Mark Summit will be attended by 250 female high school students who have demonstrated outstanding leadership skills in their schools and communities.
GOING GLOBAL | CRAZY FOR CRICKET
Last week, amidst a jam-packed month of world athletic events that included Wimbledon, the Formula One British Grand Prix, and the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019, England bested New Zealand to take home the grand prize at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 for the first time.
England's win in super overtime was just one of the tournament's thrilling moments; another was the semi-final match between India and New Zealand. New Zealand's win was a great upset as India was heavily favoured to win the match, going in as the most consistent team in the competition.
All in all, it was a successful tournament and the close matches and upsets reminded us why we continue to watch and love sports; the greatest stories are made from nail-biter matches and unexpected moments. We would not have it any other way!