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A (Good) Social Media Campaign: MLB Cleveland Indians

The MLB Cleveland Indians have initiated a brilliant social media campaign over the past two years. For a baseball team whose name doesn’t carry the same weight as franchise brands such as the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees, the masterminds behind the Indians public relations team had formulated a social media plan years ahead of their competitive counterparts.  For years, the Indians have struggled getting fans involved with the club and keeping attendance rates high. To generate interest and to intrigue fans of the lackluster team, they implanted a social media campaign that had not yet been attempted.

Cleveland Indians have dedicated an entire suite in their baseball stadium exclusively to attendees who are social media fans. In 2010, they launched a trial section known as the “Tribe Social Deck”; and this began Progressive Field’s decision to be aggressive in their attempt to bridge the gap between the club and their fans.  The “Social Deck,” for short, were designated seats in left field decked out for bloggers and tweeters.

The following year, the Indians decided to be even more aggressive and enhance social media fan involvement by creating the “Social Suite”. Billed as “the first social media-only space in professional sports,” the devoted suite showed a strong commitment to this new approach in the ever-changing social environment.

social suite

(photo courtesy of “…Only in Cleveland”)

The Wi-Fi enabled “Social Suite” provides fans a plugged-in way to enjoy the game; it allows fans the opportunity to both mingle offline with other attendees and also maintain an online presence during the game with their friends and followers.

A quote by Mark Shapiro, the President of the Cleveland Indians, best sums up the whole initiative:  “We’re cognizant of the importance of social media as a tool to engage with fans,” said Shapiro. “We now have the opportunity to directly connect to our fans and engage in authentic, two-way conversations. These connections with fans strengthen our brand vision to create memories, connect generations and celebrate families.”

I think President Shapiro and the Indians have hit a homerun with this innovative idea. It shows the organization is not only willing to adapt with current trends but savvy enough to capitalize on it as well. Entrance into the “Social Suite” can be gained by anyone; but admittance must be garnered prior to game day. An application form is available online for interested fans to fill out.

“Social Suite” attendees are granted unrestricted access to the club. Members of the club’s front office often pop into the “Social Suite” and are more than happy to answer questions from the fans.  In return, the situation helps the front office receive direct feedback from the fans. Having this attentive audience is a huge benefit from them; it allows candid conversations during which they can receive invaluable feedback.

The Cleveland Indians social media campaign extends beyond the “Social Suite,” although it is the focal point of the campaign. In addition to the fan media suite, the team is recognized by ESPN the Magazine as one of “MLB’s most Twitter-friendly teams.” And for good reason. They have organized and maintained a solid fan-accessible Twitter approach for their franchise. On the official website, there is a page dedicated to connecting with the team and its players through social media. The one page makes it easy to find any and all means of connecting with them.

A released comprehensive list of all active Twitter accounts associated with the team resides on this page; the list includes Twitterhandles for President Shapiro, the PR department, the players, and even radio personalities.  The team also participates in the common practice of announcing discounted tickets on media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter.

The effort by the Cleveland Indians to embrace social media validates they are dedicated to strengthening their brand.  Using current popular methods (Twitter ‘sweepstakes’) and unique new approaches (“Social Suite”) prove they are not afraid to try new techniques to increase attendance and raise awareness of the team name.  A pioneer when it comes to social media and marketing, the Indians are definitely leading the way.

I think the “Social Suite” gets people excited to attend the game and experience the ballpark in a unique way.  It can generate excitement from casual fans. Take this following example: a mother from Cleveland is a fair-weather fan. But put her in the “Social Suite” and she became much more motivated to check out the ballpark then share her experience via her blog Life In Cleveland

Here’s another blogger who called his time in the “Social Suite” as a “night to remember.”

A Yahoo! Writer shares his experience as well. But what struck me most about his article was the attendance number the night he was at the stadium: 9,025 fans.  Very, very low. To compare, in 2012 the top three teams with the highest average attendance were Philadelphia Phillies, NY Yankees, and Texas Rangers with averaging  44,021 : 43,7333  : 42,719 respectively. Where did the Cleveland Indians rank on the list? Second to last with an average attendance of 19,797.  Averaging less than half than the top teams, the Indians need to try different promotions and campaigns to get that number to rise. Using social media is a great way to go about it and that is why I think their campaign thus far is a step in the right direction.

MLB Attendance Ranking

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I work on live television shows. Actually, I work on “live” television shows.

Of course, 90% of what we do on a daily basis is going out to airways in real time. But, the other small percentage is pretaped ahead of time and played back as live. Nothing to mislead the viewer, but if an anchor has a lengthy copy to read on camera it might get “put on tape” prior to the show to avoid tongue twisting moments. When I am sitting in the control room watching the talent fumble over and over (and over) on their words, I-along with coworkers-roll our eyes and let out exasperated sighs. Many times it has been commented “Come on, how hard is it to just r-e-a-ddddd.” We can’t understand why we are suddenly on take nine of a 20 second standup.

Well, after making my presentation, I have found my compassion. The slideshow with voice-over took double the amount of anticipated time. The luxury of knowing a “redo” was possible took the immediate pressure off. Perhaps, it was this that led to trip up of words, stumbling of sentences, and a sneaky cough or two. The amount of outtakes is not a number I am broadcasting, but I would have been lucky if it was nine.

I wanted to appear cool and collected, making it seem the slideshow was done in one easy-breezy take. But the reality is, it was not. And neither are the professionals who earn a living reading the teleprompter.  It was a chilling comparison.

It takes much effort to appear effortless.

(Module 8 Short Post)

My Presentation:

Audio is included so make sure you click the play bottom on the left corner!  Also, no need to click the next button during the slideshow. It will automatically advance to the next when the audio is finished on each slide.

http://prezi.com/pz9qcaq8twmr/untitled-prezi/?kw=view-pz9qcaq8twmr&rc=ref-35492323

Side note: When I tested out the link, I noticed an advertisement on the bottom that looked like the play button. It is not. If this happens, just click the little “x” button on the ad’s top right. Also, the slideshow may take a couple seconds to start (which may seem like a lot of time to us) but it is just loading- so don’t worry. Thanks.

I originally was going to write my response this week on the importance of research; but I was even boring myself with that topic. “A writer must research” “A writer must know what they are writing about” “A writer needs  their work to be based in facts” Blah, Blah, Blah.  Boringgggg. After attending the hockey playoff game between Quinnipiac and Cornell last night, I had a strong urge to write about fighting in sports.  Or at least my opinion on the subject.

 The No. 1 Quinnipiac Bobcats started the game with a vengeance. Perhaps, it was fueled by their loss from the previous night to the big Red. Regardless of the motivation within twenty-four seconds, Quinnipiac scored the first goal of the game. And they never eased up. The domination continued until the final horn: 10-0.

 You could see the mounting frustration from Cornell. Tempers were rising; they were getting angrier and angrier with their inability to score. In my opinion, the hopelessness they felt after all those goals made the players, in essence, just snap. Then aggression level rose, severely. Even for a contact sport such as hockey, it was reaching an inappropriate level causing the game to turn dirty and out-of-control.   In the second period, an outright brawl erupted on the ice involving almost all of players (minus the goalies). The Cornell men were fighting out of pure frustration and anger. I feel it was a way they thought they could redeem themselves. They could not prove themselves with the puck, so instead, they needed their fists to prove something.

 And what is that something? 

This is what I always wonder in sports. I do not condone physical violence during any sporting event. No matter the score, it should never revert to fighting. To me, it brings up the issue of good sportsmanship. But moreover, physical violence could lead to unnecessary injuries. Luckily, no one was hurt during the numerous fights from last night.

After the initial major outbreak, the fights continued until the very end. I wanted to know the exact number so I dug around for game stats.  According to the official Quinnipiac Men’s Ice Hockey webpage, between the two teams, 34 penalties were served for a total of 184 minutes in the penalty box.  An article on the same website says “It is the most penalties minutes compiled by two teams in ECAC Hockey history, passing the 134 minutes set by Yale and Harvard in 1998 and the second most penalties called in a game since 1985 (39, Clarkson vs. St. Lawrence).”

 Outrageous.

And yet, I know a lot of fans from last night don’t share my sentiment against this excessive fighting. The cheering from the crowd only seemed to egg on the players. I sat silently while others were on their feet BOOing the referees for stopping the unnecessary fighting. From my viewpoint, I don’t see how or why any of this is entertaining or fun to watch.  

*Quinnipiac v Cornell game was held on Saturday March 16, 2013

Steroids in baseball may be indecorous but the reality is they have helped win games, series, and championships for many years.  Performance enhancing drugs have been on the rise since the mid-1950’s; but a crackdown in the recent decades has garnered such negative hype that strict repercussions have been aimed at some of the sport’s most admired and talented players.

The witch hunt has persecuted the biggest names in baseball… bringing them through drawn out court trials, attaching their character in the media, and tarnishing their accomplishments with the ever-so-condensing asterisk mark in the record books.

This needs to stop.

Stop the persecutions. Stop the legal actions. Stop with all these distractions.  Let the players, well, play.  All the frenzy that accompanies the controversial issue is a distraction.  An unnecessary distraction from the actual ball game and the time-honored traditions that come with America’s favorite pastime.

What are performance enhancing drugs and how exactly do they work?  Ph.D Craig Freudenrich explains it in simple terms: “A steroid is a chemical substance derived from cholesterol. The body has several major steroid hormones… Catabolic steroids break down tissue, and anabolic steroids build up tissue. Anabolic steroids build muscle and bone mass primarily by stimulating the muscle and bone cells to make new protein.”

Knowing this, it is easy to make the connection as to why an athlete would choose to use.  Anabolic steroids increase muscle strength by allowing new muscle growth.  Building mass and strength of muscles and bones make a player bigger, stronger, and overall, a better athlete than he could be solely by natural methods {e.g. conditioning, weight training, monitored nutrition}.  Having the bigger and stronger body has rewards on so many levels; I think if a baseball player wants those rewards he should have the right to utilize any ‘on’ or ‘off’ the market performance enhancing drug.

Sports fans are not looking at baseball players to do their best; we are looking for plays that make our jaws drop.  Plays that will appear on tonight’s SportsCenter. Plays that will go down in history.  Ones that we will remember weeks, months, even years from now. It is not enough to watch an ordinary game.  We demand excellence…

The attraction of attending a game at a ballpark is to be entertained. We attend to see excitement. We want to see drama.   What makes a baseball game exciting? A homerun!  No one goes to a game to see an outcome of two goose eggs on the scoreboard. Strategic play and runs batted in are commendable ways of scoring, but fans want the excitement of powerful swings and that distinctive c-r-aaa-c-k noise when the bat makes contact with the pitch. Eyes following the ball as it then rockets over the entire length of the field, the outfielder sprinting back to the edge in hoping the hit falls short of the homerun wall, the bleacher creatures all holding up their mitts in hopes of catching that coveted homerun ball. This is excitement. This is baseball. And, whether we want to acknowledge it or not, it is because of steroids a majority of these power hits reach the heights and distances they do.

The use of performance enhancing drugs by athletes brings success to the players. Not only that, it is also good for the financial success of each individual baseball franchise. A winning team is one people want to see. Once a team produces a championship ring, the stadium fills up. It’s a foolproof formula. It is known that winning franchises have fuller (and more enthusiastic) stands of people.  This causes ticket sales to rise. Food and drink sales rise. Merchandise and memorabilia sales rise.  Furthermore, not only does the franchise’s bottom line benefit from a winning team, the economy gets stimulated in the surrounding area.  Local restaurants and bars are hangouts prior to games.  Taxi cabs and mass transits are busy getting people to/from the stadium.  And local merchants capitalize on fans buying jerseys, T-shirts, and baseball caps to wear to the game.   More jobs are created in successful stadiums; there needs to be enough food vendors to meet the demand of all the hungry spectators. Hiring ample hot dog vendors, among others, are needed during the season.  A winning team equals a boost to the stadium’s profits.

Money talks. We have all heard this expression. Baseball players are expected to help their team earn the big ‘W.’ The players who do this the best will make more money.  Simple as that.  Reaching salaries in the millions is done by players whose name we remember.  Bonuses are received by those with the best performances. With all the monetary incentives available, steroids are a way to guarantee financial security for the player and his family.

At this point, I know where your thought process is heading:  Performance enhancing drugs are dangerous to a player’s health. We all know the side effects, so surely, the athletes who are consuming them do as well. And if they know, then why would they risk it? With all the public information about the harmful side effects, anyone would be crazy to alter their body with these substances.

If they choose to chance it, then it is their own prerogative.

We all know the dangerous side effects of smoking cigarettes, yet it is still an individual choice to smoke or not to smoke.  The dangerous side effects of steroids are no worse than the life-ending side effects smoking can bring upon to an individual. Steroid use is typically limited to the duration (or a portion) of their career.  Usage ends once the player ends their career; and according to the US National Library of Medicine & National Institutes of Health the average length of a baseball player’s career is between 5 and 6 years. Some are fortunate to play for much longer; others don’t continue past rookie year. But the highly detailed study of over 6,000 major league baseball position players of the last century shows just how short a span a successful career in baseball really is.  To me, this means the amount of steroid intake—unlike a habit of smoking—has an end point. A player only has a few short years to prove himself in the game of baseball.  The most must be made during that time, why wouldn’t they utilize all tools at their disposal to be as successful and memorable as possible?

*** Disclaimer: This is my Devil’s Advocate assignment. Opinions do not reflect the views of the writer***

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3184466/

http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/athletic-drug-test2.htm