Baseball is the most attended sport in the US, but less well known in Europe. When Major League Baseball (MLB) challenged The Wild to get Gen Z excited about the game, we knew we had a challenge on our hands. Major League Baseball is steeped in heritage with a loyal following and most importantly, taps into culture that goes far beyond sport. Baseball makes footprints in the worlds of food, fashion, music, you name it.
The best way to get into baseball is travelling to the US and attending a game. But when Covid made that impossible, our challenge was to travel the other way, and bring the US baseball experience to Europeans. We noticed a huge 68% of Gen Z’ers look forward to the food at baseball games and It’s even a reason to go to the game in itself. But how can we bring the food experience of a sports game when live games aren’t happening? The answer - make a brand new YouTube series featuring iconic baseball dishes and hilarious celebrity guests.
We would enlist Instagram’s culinary king, What Willy Cook, to battle a different celebrity guest each week to recreate stadium classic dishes; from cheesy stacked burgers to katsu chicken loaded fries. Titled ‘Home Plate’, the series proudly launched on YouTube to take advantage of the 170% increase in viewers of serialised food programming during the pandemic.
Through a deep dive using our proprietary data tool, DiscoverIQ, we noticed views for food-related content on social media had increased by a staggering 170% year-on-year since 2019, so we knew we had a solid audience for a food-based series. We chose YouTube as the go-to platform as 48% of UK sports fans watch more sports content on YouTube compared to any other social media platform. Most importantly for us, 71% of this audience sat in Major League Baseball’s 18 to 34 year old target audience.
Baseball food is outrageous. It's big, bold and brash. So if we were to be successful in our mission to bring the baseball food experience to Europe, our presenter needed to do more than just cook. They needed to bring the fun, energy and excitement of the baseball food experience to an audience watching at home on their phones. Despite never having hosted a show before, we identified What Willy Cook as the man for the job.
We invited a range of celebrities to battle him in the kitchen for each episode, from Michelin-trained-come-TikTok star ‘Poppy Cooks' to renowned vegan food reviewer, ‘The Little London Vegan’.The following of each influencer tapped into a unique online food community, from veganism and michelin-starred cooking, to junk food and comfort eats. The universal link was their vocal and loyal Gen Z audience that reached an impressive 1 million followers cumulatively.
We published the full 11-minute episodes on IGTV to provide a smooth viewing journey for our talents' Instagram-heavy audiences, and allocated paid-media behind the first three episodes to to hook new viewers at the beginning of the series, and make sure they kept coming back for more.
Budget restraints meant we had to film all five episodes with five different influencers in just three days, all the while ensuring first-time presenter What Willy Cook felt comfortable in this new format and was able to create a light, fun atmosphere that would bring the best out of each influencer and make each episode distinct. The first episode aired just two weeks after filming.
The launch of Home Plate was the first time Major League Baseball had launched a series centred around food, and the results speak for themselves. The battle-like nature of the show meant we saw a real competitive streak among our talent which resulted in the highest number of comments we had ever seen on a YouTube series for Major League Baseball. Across the five episodes, we drove 553,000 organic views, 867,000 paid views, and an incredible 10 million impressions.
On YouTube, episodes 1 and 2 earned both the longest average watch times and drove the most new subscribers to Major League Baseball’s channel. By focusing spend on the first three episodes, we sucessfully brought new audiences into the series who subsequently subscribed to future episodes.
The series was such a hit that we launched a spin-off with micro-influencers called ‘Home Plate: Rivalries' on Instagram, when games were live again. We tactically chose talent who broached the worlds of food and sport and worked with the likes of former professional rugby player Chistian Day and Personal Trainer, Rob Eades. The show received over 390k impressions and a strong engagement rate of 6%, far beyond the average branded engagement rate of 1.2%.
The success of Home Plate is testament to how branded content that taps into the surrounding interests of existing audiences, combined with an effective influencer and paid media strategy, can successfully grab the attention of new audiences and build a strong, long-term following.