Baseball Reminds Fans of “The Show” in New Ad Campaign
NEW YORK (AP) _ Major League Baseball hopes to overcome the discontent generated by its season-ending labor strike last year with a new advertising campaign aimed at reminding fans how much fun big-league ball can be.
``Welcome to the Show″ is the ad theme set to debut during Tuesday’s telecasts of this season’s delayed opening night.
The 1995 season is starting amid uncertainty whether fans will embrace it after a 232-day strike that ended last season in mid-August and canceled the World Series for the first time in 90 years.
Players have sped through an abbreviated spring training schedule that some experts say could leave them vulnerable to injury. The strike ended without a settlement and there are no guarantees against another walkout.
Only 40 percent of people surveyed for a CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll after the strike ended said they were baseball fans, down from 55 percent who said so in a similar poll just before the strike started last Aug. 12.
``It’s going to be a long time before real confidence is built,″ said Christopher Geist, a professor of popular culture at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio.
Baseball officials say they recognize fans are unhappy that the labor dispute cost them a resolution to what was one of the most exciting seasons in years but are hoping the intrinsic appeal of the game will draw fans back.
``They are not mad at the game,″ said Kathleen Francis, director of market development for the baseball commissioner’s office.
The new campaign was developed in the relatively short span of about two weeks by the ad agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners of San Francisco.
The agency has previously created advertising for the National Basketball Association (``I love this game″) and for the Oakland A’s (Billyball, during Billy Martin’s tenure as manager).
``We wanted people to refocus on what they liked about baseball and on what makes this game unique and different from other kinds of sports,″ said Jeff Goodby, co-creative director for the ad agency.
The agency is finishing work on the first group of commercials that will debut on the cable network ESPN’s telecasts of the first games of the season on Tuesday night and Wednesday.
Among the ads in progress are commercials focusing on the company that makes the hot dogs sold at San Francisco Giants games at Candlestick Park, on the ballpark organist for the Texas Rangers and on an apartment that has a clear view of Wrigley Field where the Chicago Cubs play.
Former major league pitcher Bill Lee, known for a quirky personality and nicknamed The Spaceman, is making a commercial in which he explains why a sinkerball is so hard to hit.
Goodby said ads will also be made focusing on other facets of the game ranging from the grounds crew to stadium design to how kids perceive the game.
New ads will also feature active players. No effort was made to include players in this first round of commercials because they were preoccupied with spring training, Goodby said.
Baseball officials won’t say how much they plan to spend on running the campaign, but industry insiders expect it will be $10 million to $15 million.
Francis said teams will be encouraged to use the ads locally and use the theme in their own advertising. Tens of thousands of bumper stickers and badges with the slogan are being produced to be handed out at games.
She said sponsors of The Baseball Network, the joint venture of baseball, ABC and NBC that will broadcast games, may also use the theme in ads and displays.
Goodby said he hopes the ads reignite good feelings for baseball. ``We hope we will be able to run the campaign for years,″ he said.