Last year, MLB launched a season-long marketing gimmick called the Fan Cave, a linchpin of its social-media strategy, in which two dudes spent their waking hours inside a tricked-out Manhattan storefront hosting parties, filming videos, interacting with fans online, and, most important, watching every baseball game of the season. The Cave (which is not overseen by BAM) earned 1.3 billion media impressions and is returning this season—but with some improvements. Tim Brosnan, MLB's executive vice president of business, explains what the league learned.
THE CAST WAS TOO SMALL
"Two guys sitting alone in a storefront for the 100th night in a row in the summertime is hard work," Brosnan says. "We had our ups and downs." Also, two white guys weren't exactly the picture of diversity.
Second swing: The Cave is going Survivor-style—a diverse group of contestants to start, and fans will whittle them down as the season unfolds. Now there's motivation to stay engaged.
CAMERAS RARELY LEFT THE CAVE
Players filmed videos for MLB.com at the Cave—talking baseball, goofing around, and so on. But a few actually left the space—like when Houston Street (the player) wandered New York asking where Houston Street (the road) is—and those videos were the most viewed.
Second swing: MLB will film more outside the Cave this year and monitor traffic trends so it can home in on what content fans respond to.
PLAYER'S WEREN'T PREPPED
Players' Cave trips were often booked last minute, and some were displeased to discover they'd be filming videos and doing events for three hours straight. "Sometimes guys were like, 'Holy mackerel, what did I get myself into?'" Brosnan says.
Second swing: Players will now be prepped in advance on exactly what's expected, what videos or stunts they'll be doing, and how long it will take.
THE CAVE WASN'T ON TV
Because the Cave was conceived as a social-media space, MLB kept it largely separate from televised game coverage. "Then we spent the first half of the first year explaining what a Fan Cave is," says Brosnan.
Second swing: Broadcasters are booked to air regular bits from the space. "TV still is a way to talk to a mass audience. It's just that you can't be in a conversation 24 hours a day on TV," Brosnan says. But that's what the Cave is for.
A version of this article appeared in the April 2012 issue of Fast Company magazine.