Baseball has a marketing problem and fans were reminded of that problem when Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels center fielder, signed the most lucrative contract in professional sports history on Tuesday.
Trout, widely regarded as the best player in Major League Baseball, signed a 12-year, $430 million deal to remain in Hollywood. The only problem? He’s not receiving the Hollywood treatment like many other superstar athletes do in other leagues. Trout is so good that some people feel like he’s STILL underpaid. Crazy, right?
Just recently, ESPN released their 2019 World Fame 100 and there was exactly ONE Major League Baseball player on that list: Bryce Harper at #99. There were a large amount of cricket players, a national swimmer, and even Ninja, an eSports superstar, among others ahead of Harper.
What’s most alarming about this is that Harper’s reported endorsements ($13 million) and social media following (1.4 million followers) was drastically lower than a vast majority of the other members on the list. Now, part of that is obviously on the player, but a large amount of blame falls on the MLB and the Player’s Union. It’s also noteworthy that there was not a single baseball player on the Top 100 list in both 2017 and 2018.
That simply cannot happen. Major League Baseball doesn’t lack personalities either. Trout and Harper are just two of the incredible athletes in the MLB. Javy Baez, Francisco Lindor, Jose Altuve, Manny Machado, Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado, Aaron Judge, Mookie Betts, Giancarlo Stanton, Paul Goldschmidt…you get the point. All of those players and many more are incredible talents in great markets that could easily be in commercials, all over social media, or even on cereal boxes to help and grow their brands while also helping to grow the sport of baseball in general.
The problem is a vast majority of the public probably doesn’t recognize any, or most, of those names that I just listed. Baseball has long been associated with being a boring or uninteresting sport.
So how can the MLB try and fix this problem? The league doesn’t have a money problem. Over $10 billion was generated in 2017, landing them second only to the NFL as the most profitable league in pro sports. That is also evidenced by the massive contracts recently handed out to four of the best players in their league.
While that isn’t meant to be a shot at the Tampa Bay Rays organization, clearly one of the lower budget teams in the league, it’s the $1.32 billion dispersed between for different players. Four incredibly marketable players, might I add.
So it’s pretty clear that people are watching, either in person or on TV, but the money and interest is there. So how do they take that next step to really get these guys to become recognizable faces? A good start would be more on-field interaction, particularly for TV entertainment.
This isn’t the first time that Major League Baseball has mic’d up players either. They actually had multiple players mic’d up during the 2018 All-Star Game as well.
Again, to reiterate, this isn’t entirely on Major League Baseball’s shoulders. A lot of this has to come from the players finding ways for them to expand their own brand.
It’s not a reach to say that Mike Trout is the best player baseball has seen since Ted Williams. Yet a sport built on history, can’t seem to find a way to market one of the greatest players to ever step foot on the diamond. It’s a real shame.