This formed the challenge Major League Baseball (MLB) presented The Wild at the start of the year: as the season got underway, bring the sport to an untapped European audience. And then the pandemic changed everything. Here, Dylan Davenport, managing director of The Wild (pictured) explains how they rose to the challenge even when lockdown had other plans…
In every sense audience-first, we moved away from 'make an ad' territory, and instead developed ‘Bases Covered’, a new, personality-led, serialised show to bring the MLB brand experience to life.
Sports journalist Max Whittle and influencer Jemel One Five would recruit a roster of celebrities to form their own baseball team, exploring different elements of the game along the way.
But then Covid hit.
Now we had to win over this same untapped audience with no baseball games, launch a product with nothing to launch. And to top it off, we weren’t allowed to leave the house.
Flex in a world of flux
Knowing this, we worked closely with MLB to swiftly adapt our strategy to produce and film the ‘Bases Covered’ series entirely in lockdown. Every day seemed to bring new limitations to what we could and couldn’t film, our access to guests, our ability to work. So we decided to swim with the tide, to embrace the chaos and allow it to dictate our creative output.
Winning over a new audience, an audience facing chaotic circumstances themselves, meant we had to accept we were all in it together – from the viewer to the client, to my remote team. Pretending everything was fine would have resulted in an unrelatable fan experience. So, for example, when one of the hosts caught Covid, it became part of the narrative.
You can’t control chaos
Going with the natural flow isn’t to say we gave up control. Far from it. We took stock of what we could control. Known-knowns. We always knew the episode structure. The content we needed. The thing we couldn't rely on was the content from the games themselves (once baseball started up in July). Or the health of the talent. Or being allowed outside.
But we could control the equipment, the teams, the edits and final product. This gave us parameters in which to operate and a consistency in output. Apart from being good for my team’s mental health, this loose structure of wrested control became the foundations from which we produced, I believe, some fantastic work.
The campaign achieved over 3.2 million views, delivering 7.2 million impressions and over 641,000 unique viewers in total. The episodes commanded an average watch time of over four minutes, proving the audiences’ investment in the content – and our planless approach.
Collaborate to accumulate
Which brings me onto collaboration. Without the sheer commitment of a team spread across the country and world, all unsure of what lurked around the corner, this work would never have got off the ground, let alone hit those numbers.
Covid has made clear that the new generation of agencies will win not by competing, but by collaborating and partnering. With brands, with partners, with agencies, with each other.
Or, as Alex Herron, head of content at MLB puts it: “Whether late night edits, reshoots, sending merch, or collecting baseballs down the side of shipping containers – that's the stuff that makes the difference. It’s about a shared commitment towards achieving a goal.”
Without this chaos, who knows how the campaign would have looked? By embracing it we became a part of the shared experience of those we sought to engage. By being a part of that shared experience we added value to their lives. And by adding value to their lives we exceeded MLB’s brief.
In Season 2 of Bases Covered, we go on a virtual road trip to different baseball teams in their cities. Which is hilarious, given that no one can actually get to America. And that we’ve just been locked down, again. Bring it on.