MLB Pitches A Big Opening Day Campaign

Brian-Wilson

Major League Baseball is launching a pair of unusual campaigns celebrating the new season. One is a TV and Web campaign, amd the other is something else entirely, a Web-directed experiential campaign following the weird "human museum" marketing tactic of putting real people in a kind of public fishbowl -- in this case, a pair of diehard fans.

The effort, via new agency of record Hill Holliday, is called MLB Fan Cave -- a physical venue in New York City. The "cave" hosts the winner of the "MLB dream job," promotion, a guy chosen from a pool of some 10,000 applicants for obsession with baseball. The winner, Mike O'Hara, and his friend will inhabit the Fan Cave every day for the entire 2011 MLB season. The two will watch all 2,430 regular-season games plus every post-season game while chronicling their experiences and sharing their viewpoints on baseball and pop culture through Facebook, Twitter, a blog on MLB.com, custom videos and regular appearances on MLB Network.

O'Hara moved into the Fan Cave, which is at 4th Street and Broadway, on Thursday. The venue has interactive fan activities, hosts regular visits from MLB players, baseball personalities and celebrities, parties, musical performances, and other events. It also has 32 14-foot windows, allowing constant views of the two fans, who will also be shown online.

Production company Endemol USA helped develop the program. The firm will produce a Web series that comprises films that are sharable through social media, which will chronicle the activities and events at the MLB Fan Cave, as well as the two fans' daily interactions. Bobby Maurer ("The Tom Green Show") will serve as executive producer.

The cave has 15 Sony Bravia LCD HDTV televisions that will broadcast every MLB game. It also has a branded Pepsi Porch modeled after the Pepsi Porches that are featured in three MLB ballparks.

Also launching on Thursday is the "MLB Always Epic" campaign, to coincide with Opening Day. Also via Hill Holliday, the campaign eschews entirely the traditional approach of showing dramatic game footage. Instead, the effort plays on the sometimes-eccentric proclivities of MLB stars. The campaign is also Web-focused, although there is also a raft of TV ads, one of which broke Thursday. The Web elements will be housed on MLBAlwaysEpic.com.

The initial salvo of TV and Web creative touts San Francisco Giants' Brian Wilson, American League Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez and Colorado Rockies' Ubaldo Jimenez. The league says that by the time the campaign has unreeled over the course of the MLB season, it will have shone the spotlight on 30 players.

Tim Brosnan, MLB's EVP of business operations, tells Marketing Daily that the "Always Epic" campaign is MLB's "most extensive effort to reach our fans, both active and casual, through digital platforms." He says the campaign will be the league's creative platform for the forseeable future.

A dozen online and three television executions will feature Wilson, and use his hirsute facial style to play on his talents as a player as well as his affection for ninjas. With an "Inside The Beard" theme, the mini-campaign goes on a journey within Wilson's beard.

Hernandez appears in an ad at a county fair, where he plays a carnival game in which he has to down milk jugs with baseballs. As Hernandez starts racking up prizes, he puts the booth out of business. An ad featuring Ubaldo Jimenez has the player trying to find his name on a display of personalized license plates at a roadside tchotchke store. Along with a strong online and social media presence, the work will also run on MLB's network partners Fox, ESPN, and TBS, as well as on MLB Network and MLB.com. Flash banners will drive users to the MLBAlwaysEpic.com site.

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