Blue Jays' On Field Product Has Caught Our Attention Again, But How Will Brands Respond?

Bart_Given_Web101 Bart Given, Managing Director

With another Blue Jays Opening Day in the books, boasting record broadcast figures,

I find myself reminiscing about my time with the Toronto Blue Jays. I was fortunate to work within the organization spanning twelve years from 1997-2009. My first role was summer intern, and I weaved my way through community relations, marketing & game entertainment, travelling secretary (for you Seinfeld fans, I would have been George’s boss – Wilhelm) and baseball operations – finally as Assistant General Manager.

So many great experiences and memories – no question. Perhaps stories for another day.

Having grown up in Southern Ontario, my relationship with the Jays started years before I was on the payroll. It began in a similar fashion to many of you – as a fan. Some new generation fans will identify emotionally with Bautista’s bat-flip, but my initial transformational memory was George Bell falling to his knees and being embraced by Tony Fernandez upon clinching the AL East in 1985.

I remember it vividly, and feel like I grew up with Tony, George, Robbie, Pat, Juan and Devo. We spent a lot of summers together, and I was impacted by their performances on the field.

But looking back at that time with a different lens, I was also tremendously impacted by what happened off the field. When I think about the Jays of the ‘80s and ‘90s, I’m also reminded of CIBC: The Bank of the Blue Jays, McCain: Catch the Taste, Mr. Sub Bag Day, Shoppers Drug Mart Calendars and this catchy tune:

Certainly I was more impressionable back then, and we all may be a bit more cynical than we were in pre-2000 – but these brands successfully and authentically etched themselves into my brain-waves. They found a way to tap into the passion of a fan-base, often in a very simplistic manner. So much so, that I’m still recalling their jingles and tag-lines 20 years later. Truth be told, I’m sure I have a CIBC pocket schedule and Shoppers Drug Mart Calendar amongst my very few keepsakes.

What a great reminder for brands today. When you purchase the rights to a passionate and engaged fandom – speak to them in their own language. Co-author and integrate your story to tap into the passion, loyalty and ritual that inherently exists within the community.

When provided inventory on broadcast or on the big screen – make it relevant. Like Coke’s example above, or how another original Blue Jays partner, Labatt Blue, tapped into the fan-base and Canadian psyche.

Much more relevant, engaging and impactful than your standard product :30.

The 2016 Blue Jays season has come with a level of anticipation that hasn’t been seen in a long time, how will the current crop of partners tap into this enthusiasm throughout the spring, summer (and hopefully) fall?  It’s incredibly difficult to end this post without using an awful pun referring to home runs or striking out. So I just won’t.

Go Jays Go.

P.S. For those of you interested in baseball on the Canadian West Coast: