The Miami Marlins may be getting national attention for the team manager’s controversial comments and a flamboyant, water-gushing home run display in its new ballpark, but the ball club’s social media efforts are reflective of what appears to be more social innovation by Major League Baseball teams.
In the past couple months, like other clubs, the team has added Pinterest and Tumblr accounts, along with a Twitter presence for its maritime mascot, Billy the Marlin. The team also allows fans to download special Marlins images to enhance their Facebook Timelines. However, given the club’s emphasis on attracting Latino fans to the Little Havana, Miami ballpark, the Marlins take care to speak to their Spanish speaking fans in a nuanced way.
“We’ve been busy,” said Alex Buznego, a digital director for the Miami Marlins, which this season opened its stadium, where the first 2012 regular season MLB matchup on American soil was played earlier this month. (The first regular season series was played in Japan between the Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners.)
“It’s a big moment for us,” added Buznego, noting the new stadium has free Wi-Fi and allows fans to order concessions from their phones before picking them up. “We want to make sure that the in-game experience is as connected as possible.”
On Marlins Opening Night – which featured a lavish ceremony in which players were escorted onto the field by dancers in Brazilian carnival costumes – the team asked fans to shoot videos from their seats and submit them to Marlins.com/BePartOfHistory. The submissions have been collected and in the next couple weeks, the clips will be compiled into a video montage.
Marlins Customize Messages Across Platforms
One new team Tumblr, Marlins.Tumblr.com, is intended to display the Latin influence of “Miami-style” baseball. A recent photo posted there shows a chef chopping fresh mangos at a smoothie stand. The Marlins also plan to launch a “Beyond the Ballpark” Tumblr to spotlight the volunteer work and philanthropy of the organization.
On Pinterest, the team posts player shots and photos of club gear and merchandise, recognizing the overwhelmingly female audience on the photo-sharing platform.
A visit to the Social Media Clubhouse of MLB sites turns up links to player Twitter accounts, official Tumblrs and Pinterest pages, along with large Facebook Timeline cover images, many following similar templates.
The Marlins have Spanish-language versions of the official team site, Facebook page, and Twitter account. “All of those are intended to present a custom message, a relevant message to our fans who are Spanish speaking,” said Buznego. “As we move to a ballpark that’s…in the heart of little Havana…and as we rebrand to Miami Marlins…that fan base is a group of fans that we want to activate.” The team was called the Florida Marlins before this season.
The club has a multicultural group in its marketing department. Recently, they used the official Spanish-language @LosMarlins Twitter account to communicate directly with Spanish speakers during a controversial press conference with team manager Ozzie Guillen after he was suspended for inflammatory comments he made suggesting praise for Cuba’s Fidel Castro, the revolutionary leader many Miami residents of Cuban descent believe to be a ruthless and oppressive dictator.
Striking an English-Spanish Balance
The approach taken by the team to its Spanish-language Twitter and Facebook communications regarding Guillen was slightly different from its English-language efforts. For instance, the @Los Marlins feed highlighted different quotes from Guillen’s press conference than the English feed.
“There’s nuance to any marketing message that we present,” said Buznego. He said the Marlins are planning to balance live Twitter chats with players, making sure to have a 50/50 split between English-speaking players like ace starting pitcher Josh Johnson and Spanish speakers such as third baseman Hanley Ramirez.
“In monitoring the different portals you can see how fans are different…and differences in what’s important to them,” said Buznego. In his observations, for instance, Latino fans tend to exhibit more passion. “There are more exclamation marks,” he said.
And, though he was careful not to characterize Spanish-speaking fans as having higher baseball IQs than their English-speaking counterparts, he noted, “One standout: There’s more intense in-game breaking down of strategic plays” among Latinos on Twitter who tend to be “more nuanced in the comments.”
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