MLB creates year-round UK presence with competitive socialising venue

Gaming space has scope to attract new audience for sport.

Major League Baseball wants to connect with existing fans as well as reach a new audience through its year-round activity-led retail experience in London.

"Home run house" opened in Westfield Stratford this month, with futuristic batting cages, American-style food from restaurant chain Passyunk, a partnership with Budweiser and merchandise from the 30 MLB teams.

Kelhem Salter, director of growth and strategy EMEA for MLB, said: "Fundamentally, it's a lot easier to promote a brand when you have a consistent presence in the market. Having regular season games once a year is an incredible showpiece moment for our sport and our brands. But everyone knows you need a consistent presence and this is a key part of that."

Competitive socialising is a growing trend in the leisure sector, with consumers now engaging with technologically enabled gaming spaces. MLB saw baseball as an untapped sport in this area and has been able to take its experience of the London Yards, a three-day festival in June 2019 at The Old Truman Brewery, and turn it into a long-running competitive socialising space to engage more consistently with its growing fan base in Europe.

Baseball is one of the US's oldest sports and lends itself to an experience because of its deep cultural history. However, a European activation allows the brand to be more contemporary and play around with its aesthetic. The technology in the batting cages makes the sport more futuristic, but "is relevant to this market and relevant to the fan base we are trying to attract beyond our existing plan."

Salter added: "We're really confident that there's a demand for this. It's a unique experience that sits within part of that competitive socialising piece, but has a unique spot."

Imagination is delivering the project.