How exciting was it when the Dodgers were so hot at the end of the season to head into the MLB Post Season? For many in Los Angeles, just the thought that they will actually be able to watch the games on their television was enough to bring joy. Unfortunately, too many fans were unable to participate in the age-old ritual of being able to watch nearly any game on television because they didn’t have Time Warner Cable. For those who have sports superstitions (like I do), could it be too easy to blame the collapse on the very fact that many who couldn’t watch games when the Dodgers were playing lights-out could suddenly view every moment and, therefore, break the sports-win continuum? Naah! You can’t blame it on that. But the frustration the team felt with their post-season performance and the fans felt in not being able to watch as many games could possibly have been lessened if the Dodgers (and MLB) didn’t miss a golden opportunity to engage fans with original content production off the field.
The blown opportunity – like the blown mid-inning pitching and saves on the field – can be found in what the Dodgers didn’t do as much as what they did do. Granted, Clayton Kershaw had a mind-blowing year – leading to unending national coverage – and Yasiel Puig could fill crazy amounts of columns and blogs with those who love him and those who hate him, but what about the other players? What about the opportunities to reach those who don’t care as much about the game, but the nuances and personalities of the players?
Looking at a key component of Olympic coverage provides a model for how the Dodgers can be even more compelling and attractive to fans. Every four years, people around the world start cheering for sports that they might have not cared about in the preceding three years and 50 weeks. They might be cheering for their countries, but lately, they’ve become more invested in the individual athletes due to the featurettes and clip packages conveying their journey. Without being able to watch the Dodger players and hear the legendary Vin Scully talk about them during the games on TV, the Dodger fans (existing and potential) have very little opportunity to be “up close” and derive a more intimate interest and fandom.
The Dodgers (and by Dodgers, I may mean MLB as I believe MLB manages much of what the individual teams do) do a decent job of capturing the experience for fans and players with the Cut4 series of videos on their site, but the vast majority seem to be little more than PR pieces – as opposed to warm embraces between the players and the fans. it’s all too much on the surface.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe that a team needs to post videos depicting the harrowing sequence of events Yasiel Puig endured to get from his hometown to Chavez Ravine. There’s a lot of great stories in the clubhouse about how the players got to this place in their careers. All of this leads to deeper engagement with the core fans as well as inviting more into the fold – both physically and digitally.
Much like a motion picture based on a comic book needs to engage people beyond the hard core fans, so too do the Dodgers and all other sports teams. For every Kershaw, Puig and other established players like Andre Ethier, Josh Beckett or Carl Crawford, there’s a Paco Rodriguez, Drew Butera or Joc Pederson with a story that’s ripe for original content to engage and broaden the fan base.