The MLB All-Star game is a facade; but a fascinating marketing strategy at that

The passion, novelty and history of the MLB All-Star Game has opened up many avenues for MLB to make huge profits from corporate sponsorships, TV deals, and ticket/event revenue.

Garrett Jones

MIAMI, FL– The MLB All-Star Game has long been one of my personal favorite sporting events of the year. Its star power and pomp marks the middle of the summer; and perfect timing at that- school’s out, everyone’s traveling, the weather’s great, and Major League Baseball’s biggest and boldest stars shine brighter than the blazing sun.

The game is chalked full of storylines. Comeback stories, rising stars, reclamation projects, top prospects- you name it. Combine this with a even playing field of high talent, and the games make great entertainment.

Nonetheless, in 2017, the All-Star Game has changed significantly. It fees different for a couple of reasons. First off, the MLB hierarchy ruled that the result of the game would no longer determine the recipient of home-field advantage in the World Series; instead, the team with the best record headed into the Fall Classic will host four games.

Playing for Home-field advantage made the games exciting and competitive. It offered insight into what we could expect of October baseball, and nourished the appeal of the league as whole and out-of-market players to many fans.

Now, the leagues will compete for cash. Not only does each victor on the winning team receive $20,000, but contract incentives could also play a huge part. Often, agents will work to include performance incentives, notably including as All-Star Game selection bonuses, into players deals.

The result is less enthusiasm from the players and fans as well as less diversity in roster selection. 32 players were selected from both leagues, but many teams, including the defending champion Chicago Cubs, received only a single representatives

The first MLB All-Star Game was played at Chicago’s Comiskey Park in 1933, an idea birthed of Chicago Tribune sports editor Arch Ward to boost morale of Chicagoans during the Great Depression. No home field advantage or player incentives were contingent on the event; it was simply born as an act of novelty.

Flash forward 88 years, and the All-Star game has turned into a streamlined, monetized publicity machine that stimulates the MLB’s revenue stream in the middle of its calendar.

Almost every event has a title sponsor. ‘T-Mobile Home Run Derby,’ ‘Chevrolet Red Carpet and All-Star Game MVP,’ ‘Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot.’

The real genius is in that balloting. Fans can vote up to 35 times on one account, through a sponsored website that generates millions of hits for companies interested in advertising. And when that’s over, Esurance also sponsors the Final Vote ballot, which appoints one more All-Star, keeping the fans interested, which garners more hits for sponsorship metrics.

This sends a shockwave reaction throughout the fanbase that leaves many upset when their favorite players aren’t elected. ‘Robbed,’ their guy was. ‘Preposterous,’ they exclaim over Twitter reacting to their favorite players not receiving the distinction.

I was one of these people. One of my favorite players, Elvis Andrus, was denied his third All-Star appearance despite a .302/.350/.825 slash line, career-best 11 HR, 49 RBI (second among MLB shortstops), and 2.6 WAR. The media darling and younger, more popular Francisco Lindor (.248 average, 1.4 WAR) was selected instead.

I had to take a step back and realize that, despite the league not having a direct say (the player vote determines All-Star reserves), Lindor is simply a more marketable star for the All-Star game- one of the MLB’s biggest revenue sources.

I was exactly where the MLB wanted me in their spectrum. Polarization is a good thing for the league; neutrality doesn’t turn the TV on and in turn make the MLB money. My interest and passion played right into the MLB’s hand and fufilled their main goal- making money. I made the league money by logging on and turning my passion into 35 votes for Elvis Andrus.

This sense of passion over a game that’s now largely irrelevant reveals the genius of the MLB All-Star game.

Fans have been lured through this facade and their passion for their favorite players and teams has been tapped into by this clever marketing technique. The passion, novelty and history of the MLB All-Star Game has opened up many avenues for MLB to make huge profits from corporate sponsorships, TV deals, and ticket/event revenue.

Don’t get me wrong, i’m not knocking the MLB at all. It’s a wildly popular league that’s making money and stakes claim to the term ‘America’s national pastime.’ Rather, I admire the MLB for their marketing tactics and am fascinated as to why it took me so long to notice.


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