Major League Baseball (MLB) completely revitalized one of their signature properties, the annual Home Run Derby, and it paid off with a more exciting contest – the players hit twice as many home runs (158) this year as they did in 2014. And home runs are why people tune in. Interest in the event had been lagging in recent years and changes needed to be made and the new format provided the boost the property needed. But change is never easy, and there were plenty of people who criticized the new format before last night. Congratulations to the MLB for having the courage to make major changes to a high profile event that left them open to plenty of criticism if things didn’t go right.
Here are three lessons businesses can take from last night’s Home Run Derby to help them with their marketing:
- “We’ve always done it that way” is always a lazy approach. There’s nothing wrong with replicating previous promotions, but times changes and you need to adapt. You can start with last year’s plan, but you need to ask yourself what can be improved.? Or, what would this look like if we were doing it for the first time. Like we say at Hiscox, There’s always a better way.
- People have other options, so get to the point. One of the best innovations in this year’s contest were the 4 minute timed rounds. What used to be untimed rounds that sometimes felt like they lasted an hour each were now in the small, bite-sized portions today’s audiences want. Few brands have the opportunity to make the slow play these days, even MLB. Keep things interesting and direct to make sure your message gets through.
- Create defining moments. The one-on-one match ups and bracket format of this year’s contest created a series of must see at bats, all the way up to the walk off win by hometown hero Todd Frazier of the Cincinnati Reds. Are you creating content that keeps the audience on their toes and makes an impression that amplifies your brand? If not, people probably already forgot they saw it.
MLB took a risk in changing the format for the Home Run Derby, but it was a risk worth taking. It’s always easier to do what you did before, but eventually that will get stale and your message will get lost. Never stop trying to make your marketing as compelling as possible, even if that means making drastic changes and exposing yourself to some criticism. It takes business courage, but you can never move forward by standing still.
I’ll give Mark Zuckerberg the last word, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”