The 2018 Major League Baseball season is now officially in full swing (yes, pun intended). For several weeks previous to the season’s start, my home in Phoenix was inundated with visitors from around the United States, since we’re the spring training hub for 15 teams appropriately known as the Cactus League. So being both in close proximity to these pre-season games and working in the video industry naturally had me curious: how is Major League Baseball (MLB) doing in terms of video marketing?
With origins in a children’s game called “rounders” and the very British sport of cricket, baseball has moved from a beloved American pastime to one of the most-attended professional sports leagues in the nation. The MLB has plenty to boast about with its digital “attendance,” too: the League’s official YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts collectively boast 20 million subscribers, with roughly 69% of them hailing from the U.S. In the month of February 2018 alone, MLB social video accounts pulled in 44.3 million total views across all their content. The League also recently landed YouTube TV as the top sponsor of its 2018 and 2019 World Series games. Clearly, the MLB is doing something right with its social video efforts.
Let’s dig a little further to see how the MLB performs on different platforms, as well as which individual teams are pulling in the most views and engagement!
Instagram Is Key for the MLB
In general, official MLB accounts have the most views across all the main social video platforms, as opposed to any particular team’s account. But baseball fans definitely have a preference for where they want to watch content from the League. Since January 1, 2018, for example, the League has generated 86.1 million views via Instagram, 22.2 million more than on Facebook. Plus, in all 12 months of 2017, the MLB earned roughly 600 million total views on its Instagram videos, the most views generated by any of the League’s official social video accounts.
I found this fact particularly fascinating, especially since the MLB’s 4.1 million followers on Instagram are not where the majority of the organization’s fans hang out online. More followers on one platform, of course, doesn’t guarantee the most views from that platform, but it seems like it should. The League doesn’t follow this assumption; the organization has the most followers on Twitter at 8.2 million followers, and then on Facebook at 6.9 million. Why, then, does the MLB get the majority of its views from its third-largest social audience?
The answer seems to lie in the type of content uploaded to MLB’s Instagram. Clips, highlights, and promos dominate the organization’s videos on that platform, the majority of which are short and easy to digest, the perfect format for Instagram. While clips of a similar nature or topic are uploaded to MLB’s official Facebook account (which saw 142 million fewer views in 2017 at a total of 458 million views), it’s obvious baseball fans head to Instagram first to get their daily fill of the bat-and-ball sport.
That being said, out of the MLB’s top ten most-watched videos from 2017, all but one of them came from Facebook. The most-viewed clip from that year was a jaw-dropping clip from the Toronto Blue Jays, where their player Chris Coghlan somersaults over the catcher from the St. Louis Cardinals to score a point. This video boasts 11.1 million views to date, with a 30-day average view count of 10.6 million!
Top Teams Prefer Facebook
The MLB’s video strength predominantly comes from the organization’s titular social accounts, as well as other official branded accounts such as the MLB Network and the Spanish-language Las Mayores. Individual League teams seem less inclined to create individual video strategies, and instead choose to ride the wave that is their parent organization’s video marketing goals. However, some teams do maintain their own social video accounts, so let’s take a look at the top five best-performing MLB teams in terms of video views from the month of February 2018:
- New York Yankees (7.1 million views)
- Chicago Cubs (6.9 million views)
- Boston Red Sox (4.8 million views)
- St. Louis Cardinals (3.5 million views)
- Philadelphia Phillies (3.2 million views)
Overall, the New York Yankees was the clear team leader with a total of 7.1 million total views in the month of February. The majority of these views (5.8 million) hailed from Facebook, while the remaining 1.3 million came from the Yankees Instagram account. The only other team to adopt a multi-platform social video strategy like this was the Red Sox, whose 4.8 million views were spread across Facebook (4.6 million views), Instagram (137K views), and YouTube (19.6K views). The remaining three teams in this top five relegated their video uploads solely to Facebook.
Does this mean Facebook is the only place other MLB teams should consider distributing videos? That depends on the individual teams’ audiences. Data analysts for the Yankees, for example, probably determined many of the team’s fans were also on Instagram, and so a video strategy for that platform was implemented and ultimately became a smart choice for the Yankees. Likewise, the Red Sox social media team saw opportunities on Instagram and YouTube, and now it reaches fans on those platforms, too. Long story short, each individual MLB team should check their data and decide if they’re not taking advantage of all the views and reach they can get from a multi-platform strategy.
Another interesting thing to note about these top five teams from February 2018 was they all came from the East or Central wings of the National and American divisions of the MLB. Not a single team from the American West or National West leagues claimed a top five spot in February 2018. According to Tubular’s exclusive data, it’s not until the Houston Astros placed tenth that month with 1.9 million views on Facebook do we see a West team get on the board. So, if the western division teams are following their data closely and know their fans want to see more video content, there’s a perfect opportunity to take advantage of that desire right now by uploading clips to their individual team accounts or improving on their current strategies for their strongest-performing platforms.