Ask just about anyone involved in Major League Baseball, and they’ll agree that getting the attention of the younger demographic is the biggest headwind the sport is facing.
Baseball has increasingly become a niche sport, which youth interest among the biggest areas of concern. It’s not that younger people altogether don’t like baseball, but other leagues have positioned themselves better to grab their attention.
Which is why the Savannah Bananas are an interesting case study.
The exhibition baseball team is similar to the Harlem Globetrotters. They captivate fans not necessarily with their on-field play, but with the antics that make their way into games. It’s working, as demonstrated by their massive social media followings, propelled by a seemingly never-ending stream of viral moments.
They represent a wake-up call for Major League Baseball.
“The Yankees right now are at 1 million (followers on TikTok) exactly, and their last post was four days ago," Zack Frongillo, the Director of Entertainment for the Savannah Bananas said in an appearance on Audacy's "Baseball Isn't Boring" podcast. “The Savannah Bananas – which that’s actually pretty impressive for the Yankees, four days ago – the Savannah Bananas currently have 3.7 million followers, and our most recent post was an hour ago.”
Of course, expecting the Yankees or any other big league team to go as far outside of the box as the Bananas do would be silly. However, it does point to the fact that there are ways to grab people with baseball, you just sometimes have to get creative.
For Major League teams, that starts with taking some chances.
“We live in a swipe world is what we call it," Frongillo said. "You can get entertainment at the drop of a hat, the swipe of a finger, and you can get endless entertainment for hours, right? That is a huge shift, living in this generation of swiping and fingertip entertainment like we call it, you have to appeal to that crowd. And it comes back to, just like you said, how are you making the game entertaining via social media?
“It’s not easy, it’s really not easy, but it’s being willing to take a leap of faith a little bit and start to look at your players and really kind of take a page out of their book and understand that they are people too. And there’s absolutely a character in each of those locker rooms that is crazy, out there and unique and is willing to market themselves better.
“Maybe it’s not necessarily dancing and the crazy stuff that we do, I don’t expect anybody to do that, but start trying to make your players a little more personable. Don’t just make them crazy celebrities that you can’t have access to."