We are in the thick of the days of October, the time of year that baseball fans, players and sportswriters live for. October is the month of heroics on the pitching mound, at the plate and in the field.
Unfortunately for baseball, the number of people watching the World Series has been getting lower and lower.
Major league baseball is probably planning some significant marketing conversations once they are done with the San Francisco Giants vs. Kansas City Royals World Series. They will have to consider what is happening, both to their sport and to viewership.
We have some guesses as to how the situation got this way:
- Maybe the number of sports that people can follow is indeed finite. With the supremacy of professional football, perhaps fans just are choosing to watch and keep up with those games and foregoing baseball for the moment.
- Small market teams make for small market World Series. San Francisco and certainly Kansas City both have loyal fan bases, but they pale in comparison to the size and buying power (and TV marketing presence) of a Yankees team or a Cubs team. Sadly, for Michigan the lowest World Series ratings were during the Giants vs. Tigers series in 2012.
- Major league baseball has to grow their newest fans by becoming part of reaching out to young potential players. Both softball and baseball players gravitate to those sports, typically, because of some sort of family involvement in the sports. Baseball has always assumed that fathers would pass down their love of the game to their children, but there seems to be a disconnect here.
- Soccer (the other football) is not only reaching more fans than baseball (World Cup viewing numbers in the U.S. eclipsed World Series Nielsen numbers so far), but more young players are playing soccer than baseball. In Michigan, high school girls have to choose between soccer and softball. Boys still can play soccer in the fall and baseball in the spring.
- Baseball games require a certain patience among the viewers. It’s not a concussion a minute type of game, and there seem to be some amazing pitchers. Although the World Series has included some high scoring games, there is some evidence that scores in general are trending lower. Are low scoring games part of the problem and should this be “fixed” or is just part of the new normal?
- Has the ban on steroids put a damper on sustained amazing hitters? Or did it damage the reputation of the teams in an irreparable way?
Baseball has inspired so many American generations with its combination of individual achievement and teamwork. Countless fans have enjoyed beautiful days at the ballpark, days of excitement and lulls in the action, times when the 7th inning stretch was something to look forward to, along with the Cracker Jack and the crack of the bat. I hope that Major League Baseball can find a way to perhaps rebrand themselves and make themselves relevant and visible for years to come.