By Rick Horrow
Podcast edited by Tanner Simkins
- While Cactus and Grapefruit League games intensify, baseball sees its most significant participation gains since 2014. According to the Wall Street Journal, the number of people who played baseball in the U.S. “surged 21%” from 2014 to 2018, with nearly 15.9 million participants. Most of the gain has come from casual players who play baseball 1-12 times a year. The ranks of those “dabblers grew 53%, or by nearly 2.3 million people” since 2014. The growth of “more frequent baseball players was a modest 5% over four years.” However, those numbers are better than in most other amateur sports. Tackle football participation “dropped 3.4% in the past five years,” and hockey and soccer saw respective one-year drops of 3.8% and 4.3% in 2018. MLB credits the growth in part to a “program it launched” in 2015, Play Ball, that “holds programs across the nation.” Last year, MLB and USA Baseball also “started a program for schools to introduce the game to kindergarten through fourth-grade students in gym classes.” Drop offs in other sports are clearly baseball’s gain, and MLB is smart to partner with USA Baseball, Ripken Baseball, and other organizations teaching personal growth and leadership skills alongside baseball fundamentals.
--And the Oscar for best ad sales goes to…the Internet. Disney-ABC TV Group’s ad sales team confirmed it “sold off the last available unit” for ads during Sunday’s Oscars telecast, and thirty-second spots were fetching $2.1-2.2 million, according to AdAge. But the big ad winner this year is digital. Spending on such digital channels as desktop, mobile, search, and social media is expected to pass traditional media formats in the U.S. this year, according to eMarketer, while spending on non-digital TV, radio, print, and billboards is projected to drop. Digital ad revenue was $26.2 billion in the third quarter of 2018, up 22% versus the year prior, according to a report from PwC U.S. It is highly likely that when the Nielsen ratings come in for this year’s Academy Awards telecast they’ll be down from years past – just like every other appointment viewing mega event including the Super Bowl. But it’s a safe assumption that mobile and social numbers for the global event will leap higher than Spike Lee into Samuel Jackson’s arms following his first ever Oscar win.
--Investor Kyrie Irving stars in Beyond Meat campaign. Vegan food maker Beyond Meat has already gotten plenty of attention from athletes minding what they put in their finely-tuned bodies. According to Hashtag Sports, Beyond Meat put one of its new investors, Kyrie Irving, in the center of its new paid media push as the company, which has raised $122 million so far, gears up to go public. More and more NBA players are embracing a plant-based lifestyle that increasingly cuts red meat out of the picture. Irving isn’t the only athlete interested in the venture; other new investors include a variety of retired and current sports stars including Shaquille O'Neill, Chris Paul, DeAndre Hopkins, Victor Oladipo, Lindsey Vonn, DeAndre Jordan, Harrison Barnes, Shaun White, and Luke Walton. Many athletes have sought to raise their performance by changing their diets. Now, they are literally putting their money where their mouths are as they financially back Beyond Meat.