Bart Given, Managing Director
In 2006, while working for the Blue Jays, a shipment of pink bats showed up in our clubhouse. Although this may make perfect sense to even the most casual of sport fan now – it was a bit of surprise to most in the clubhouse almost ten years ago. With Major League Baseball’s permission, Louisville Slugger had produced a run of pink bats to be used exclusively on Mother’s Day and to be auctioned following the slate of games to raise money for the Susan G Komen For the Cure fund. The concept was met with generally high enthusiasm and a significant amount of support from the players, coaches, clubhouse attendees, front office folk etc. – a good idea for a great cause.
Not all of the players received pink bats, only those who regularly used Louisville Slugger and agreed to use these vibrantly coloured tools of the trade. Even though the team ultimately pays for the bats, MLB players choose their bat provider and can be quite superstitious and very picky about the “wood” they will use in a game. As an aside, I once saw Carlos Delgado rifle through a new delivery of a dozen bats, inspect them carefully and sort them into three piles – gamers, batting practice and donation. Only three of the dozen bats were deemed worthy of being used in a game, judged almost solely by the look of the wood grain.
This combination of superstition and desire to be comfortable with the look of a bat led to a few players declining the pink bats but the vast majority, who had the opportunity to use the bats on Mother’s Day, did. Including Vernon Wells and Alex Rios of the Jays, and the latter happened to hit a home run with the one-day only pink bat. But it wasn’t Rios’ homer that made headlines across the baseball world that day, but Bill Hall’s. Hall’s just happened to be of the walk-off variety and with his mom in attendance at the stadium – making it a highlight staple on SportsCenter and SportsCentre.
Brewes Classics Bill Hall Mothers Day 06′
Thinking back, it couldn’t have been a better script for year one of the concept, and not surprisingly it continues to be a staple on the MLB calendar.
Since 2006, many brands have joined in “pink-ifying” Mother’s Day throughout MLB – predominantly shoe, glove and equipment manufacturers. And judging by my flip around the channels on Sunday, other sporting events and manufacturers have extended the concept beyond its MLB roots – most notably at the PGA Player’s Championship.
If you’re not a golf fan, the host course (TPC Sawgrass) did some incredible gardening overnight and planted thousands of pink flowers. Several of the Tour players were also wearing pink shirts, hats, gloves etc. My immediate reaction was positive. I was pleased to see additional support for “Moms” – no question my mother shaped me more than any other individual in my life. I want to celebrate her and Moms everywhere.
But my follow-up feeling was one of suspicion. I am aware of continued partnership and investment from MLB and the PGA in support of breast cancer awareness and research – but have the endemic brands within the sport made the same commitment or are they just leveraging the storyline to sell more product?
We saw starting pitchers with pink shoes, infielders with pink performance gear underneath their jerseys and a plethora of golfers wearing their sponsors’ shirts designed in pink patterns. Granted, clothing manufacturers have every right to design and adorn their athletes in any pantone they may desire. But if you put pink clothing or equipment on your team, athletes and store shelves specifically for Mother’s Day – you had better also be making an authentic investment to support the cause. I’m not even saying it has to be Susan G Komen, or the Canadian equivalent of the CBCF, but you should be supporting organizations with a mandate of making moms’ lives easier – such as YWCA or Dress for Success etc.
I’m just using Mother’s Day as an illustration, my long-winded point is this – act accordingly and authenticate your actions when leveraging a “cause”. It’s a message all in our industry should keep at the top of our minds whether representing a corporation, property or agency. I’m not going to check every brand who activated with a pink hue yesterday, but if your brand did – ask yourself if it was authentic.
If it was – thank you, and well done.
Research shows that Meaningful Brands – brands that align with causes we care about and make our lives better – outperform the market by 133% (Havas Meaningful Brands, 2015).
If it wasn’t – my advice to you is to do something about it. I’m not coming after you, but your consumers will.
My advice to you as a person – whatever you do, don’t forget to call Mom.