Authentic Digital Storytelling with MLB’s Barbara McHugh

“I think 2020 for all of us was all about pivoting and continuing to tell those great stories that we want to tell, but really being nimble and flexible,” said Barbara McHugh, SVP of Marketing for Major League Baseball (MLB).

Putting a focus on authentic content, access to players, and digital-first initiatives, McHugh and MLB faced the challenges of the pandemic head on and came out of it with a new connection to a younger generation of fans, with a little help from Tagboard

Live from the #Storyteller Experience stage, McHugh provided insight on Major League Baseball’s strategies on how to capture authentic moments beyond what fans see on TV, enable athletes to build their own brand, and cater content to multiple generations of fans.

On the purpose and strategy behind MLB Originals:

MLB Originals focuses on player-driven content for everyone. So you’ll see a lot of different variety there, but also an in-depth look at some unique baseball traditions and rituals such as our quick questions series. And in addition, you’ll see a lot of behind-the-scenes glimpses into players’ and teammates’ lives off the field. So really it’s all about content storytelling that engages, a younger and diverse audience.

On player-focused marketing initiatives:

At the core of it, the program is really around being a service, being a resource for our players. With all athletes, their time, and their commitment to the game on the field is intense, and we wanted to create a program that helped make things a bit easier. So we deliver assets to them in all different forms and shapes and sizes, whether that’s photos, graphics, original content that we create, or motion graphics. It spans quite a bit and a big part of that is content that we create live on the ground.

On the importance of making content served to players feel authentic:

Authenticity is certainly key. As you can imagine, the volume and amount of content that is captured or corralled and delivered is pretty enormous, but there are elements of content that we deliver that is so, so, so unique to the player…it’s really an individual by individual, whatever they’d like to see.

On the purpose of the live content capturing program started by MLB:

It’s all about trying to capture that content in unique ways. Obviously, we leverage the highlights that are taken across our broadcasts on the national and regional level. But the content that we’re shooting here is really geared towards that younger audience — different angles, different views, and experimenting with unique camera angles and access around the ballpark. We also try to really focus the content that we capture on more like reactionary content, as opposed to action content. 

On the success of the live content capturing program:

Two quick references on, in terms of numbers we have, we see 21% more engagement with this live content capturing than we do with like a standard original game highlight on Twitter. And similarly, we see 16% on Instagram.

On how to balance catering to younger and older audiences:

We have an extremely broad audience when you talk about the age of our fans, which is certainly not a bad thing. And we work closely with our local broadcast partners, as well as our national broadcast partners to really try new and different approaches throughout the season that will attract those younger audiences — I think our mic’d up content efforts this year are a good example of that. But we also work within our guidelines and those partnerships and relationships to make sure that the best content is being distributed digitally.

At the end of the day, everyone consumes content differently. And we are just trying to do our part to make sure that we’re delivering our game to fans however they want it, and wherever they want it.