Yesterday was a pretty busy day if you’re a baseball fan on Twitter who doesn’t mind spamming your friends. If you’re not a baseball fan then you might very well be a bit confused that seemingly normal people are suddenly sharing tweets with strange gifs demanding you #ElectElvis or #VoteMoose.
Saner people might ask- why is a Moose on the ballot and, more importantly, isn’t Elvis dead? More importantly, who is Rendon and why is a building in DC telling me that I should vote for him?
Appropriately confused? Here’s what was going on. Every year ahead of the All Star Game, there’s a final fan choice vote off between 8 players- 4 for the National League and 4 for the American League. Starting in 2012 MLB includes votes by hashtag in the final hours of the vote:
As a Nationals fan I was of course part of the Vote Rendon insanity. And yes, my account was suspended more than once in my exuberance.
How big of a deal was this? Enough that #VoteMoose, a Kansas City Royal, was trending nationally throughout the week. MLB helped the craze along by updating results daily in a nifty graphic and fans ate it up.
What makes this digital love so interestingly is that fans traditionally have a strong love-hate relationship with MLB’s celebrity-filled and sponsorship-fueled All Star Game. It interrupts the normal season, can break winning streaks, cause season-ending injuries, screw up pitching rotations and, adding insult to injury, is blacked out for MLB.com subscribers living in the US. And yet, fans want more than anything to be able to have bragging rights that their top players are participating.
This type of love-hate relationship is always tricky to navigate and nigh-impossible to measure. Typically in a marketing scenario we have to fly blind and rely on word of mouth, hoping that the pros outweigh the cons. Yet with the hashtag voting system MLB can actually point to numbers-backed figures showing fan engagement and enthusiasm. Think of the impact this makes when they’re selling sponsorships and trying to get big-name players to participate. They can shift the narrative around from it being all about them to being some that is fan-generated. That is marketing gold. That is also the power of hashtag strategy done well.
Well done MLB.