Rob Manfred kicks off second season at the helm of MLB with an increased social play to win young fans back to the national pastime.
Major League Baseball has an age problem. The 147-year-old league is financially healthy, sure, but younger fans are increasingly hard to find. MLB has the oldest median TV audience at 56 years, compared to 49 for NFL viewers and 41 for NBA fans, according to Nielsen. But with a cadre of young stars eager to leave their mark on the game, baseball hopes to bring millennials back to the diamond. As Rob Manfred begins his second season as commissioner, he’s looking to increase the league’s social footprint while appealing to those who don’t watch sports on traditional TV.
Adweek: What do you make of Bryce Harper’s comments about how the sport is “tired” and should embrace players showing more emotion in an effort to appeal to a younger audience? Rob Manfred: There’s a couple of word choices there I would have preferred that Bryce not have made. Having said that, the general sentiment is that this great young generation of stars that is emerging in the game is going to play the game their way—not a bad thing. Every institution evolves over time, and the fact that the players who played in the 1960s played the game one way doesn’t necessarily mean that players who are playing in 2016 are going to play it exactly the same way. I think younger stars taking control of the game is good in terms of marketing it to younger people.
Do you think baseball should embrace this and have more moments like José Bautista’s bat flip during last year’s playoffs? I don’t see that as a baseball commissioner’s office-driven issue. The players play the game on the field the way they play the game. That’s the point I was trying to make about Bryce’s comments. There’s these great young players coming along; they’re going to decide what’s acceptable on the field.
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