The 2018 Major League Baseball season had its share of memorable moments and historic events. The Boston Red Sox, once a long-forlorn franchise suffering from the “Curse of the Bambino,” won their fourth World Series since 2004, the most among MLB clubs in the last 15 seasons. The Los Angeles Dodgers clinched their second straight National League pennant, the franchise’s eleventh pennant in 61 seasons on the west coast. The District of Columbia hosted its first All-Star Game in nearly fifty years, as the Washington Nationals welcomed the Mid-Summer Classic for the first time since relocating to the nation’s capital in 2005. For the first time in the long history of MLB, there were two “Games 163” at the end of the regular season to determine division champions. The Los Angeles Angels’ Albert Pujols became the 32nd player to reach the famed 3,000-hit plateau, while noteworthy players like Adrian Beltre, Ryan Howard, Joe Mauer, Chase Utley, and David Wright announced their retirements from MLB.
With so much happening on the field, it is not surprising that MLB’s footprint in the world of social media continues to grow. Despite posting 9% fewer posts in aggregate in 2018 than in 2017, MLB clubs’ social handles generated about 3% more in social value in 2018 than in 2017. MLB clubs in general are doing a better job of driving engagement on social media, as engagement rate (defined as number of followers divided by number of engagements) has increased steadily for MLB clubs over the past several years.
Instagram continues to be a driver for engagement on social media for MLB, as well as other sports. While only 10% of total content posted by MLB teams was on Instagram during the 2018 season, over two-thirds of all engagements for MLB teams came on the platform. By comparison, Twitter comprised 72% of posts by MLB teams during the 2018 season, but drove only 16% of value generated in the same period.
Dodgers Remain Dominant in Social Value
While they fell short in the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers had the highest social value of any MLB team for the third straight season. Dodgers’ social handles generated nearly $240 million in social value in 2018, representing a 47% increase from 2017. For context, the Dodgers’ social handles generated almost as much social value as the second, third, and fourth ranked teams combined: the Boston Red Sox ($127 million in social value); the Chicago Cubs ($79 million); and the New York Yankees ($63 million). The Toronto Blue Jays round out the top five with $59 million in social value.
In just two years the Dodgers have seen their social value more than double. The Dodgers have dramatically increased the number of posts on Twitter, most of their tweets being replies to fans making comments on the Dodgers’ organic content. The Dodgers’ Twitter activity has increased from 11,300 tweets during the 2016 season and 8,600 tweets during the 2017 season to over 24,000 tweets during the 2018 campaign. Despite the high volume of content posted on Twitter, over 80% of the Dodgers’ engagements on social media were driven by content posted to Instagram.
Red Sox, Yankees Campaigns With Coca-Cola, Biofreeze Were Most Valuable in 2018
While the Dodgers have the most valuable footprint of any team in MLB overall, the Red Sox and Yankees had the two campaigns that generated the most value for brand partners.Coca-Cola partnered with the Red Sox in 2018 on score updates, driving huge value for the brand as the Red Sox rocketed through the 2018 regular season en route to their World Series victory. In total the Red Sox generated about $2.4 million in value attributed to Coca-Cola through this campaign.
The Yankees meanwhile drove tremendous value for their partner, Biofreeze, creating a unique, eye-catching campaign by adding animation to their pre-game starting lineup posts. The posts featured both brand images of Biofreeze, as well as tagging of Biofreeze, greatly enhancing the value of each post for the brand. Through this campaign, the Yankees delivered over $2 million in value attributed to Biofreeze.
Other noteworthy campaigns included Budweiser’s sponsorship of the Dodgers’ recaps of in-game highlights, as well as Sonnet’s partnership with the Toronto Blue Jays’ “roof reports.” The Dodgers’ campaign with Budweiser featured compelling images of Dodger players, and included the Budweiser “bow-tie” logo with score overlays, translating well to Instagram. This campaign generated over $500,000 in value attributed to Budweiser, accounting for an astounding 40% of all value driven for the brand by MLB teams in 2018. North of the border, the Blue Jays partnered with online insurance carrier Sonnet for a “Roof Report” on the unpredictable Toronto weather, and whether the roof at Rogers Centre would be open or closed for each game. The campaign generated about $300,000 in value attributed to Sonnet, accounting for over half of all value driven for the brand on social during the 2018 season.
As teams prepare for the 2019 season, there are a number of questions: will the Red Sox repeat as champions, or will the Dodgers finally get over the hump? How big of an impact will Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, the two stars of this year’s free agency class, have with their new squads in 2019? In the world of social, it will be interesting to see if teams continue to increase engagement rates as social media becomes ever more entrenched. Looking across the totality of MLB team content from the 2018 season, the rules for what content resonates seems clear. Content that drives the most engagement, and hence is most valuable, is content that is authentic, team-focused, compelling, fun, and simple.