During the regular season I’m pretty ambivalent about baseball but come playoffs I like to track local teams. Unfortunately we barely missed out on a “Battle of the Bay” when the A’s lost in early October but thanks to the Giants conquering the Cardinals I’m excited for the World Series once again.
Now, it can be a little tricky to keep up since I hate talk radio and don’t have cable. But this year I’ve discovered an awesome new tool which is not just the best in baseball (for me at least) but a powerful lesson for entrepreneurs. Let me show you MLB.com Gameday (check out the picture on the right).
What do you notice first? It’s pretty right? From the screenshot you should be able to recognize the Giant’s park including the giant catcher’s mitt and Pepsi bottle in left field. It looks like a baseball diamond and the closest I’ve been to this view was 7 rows behind the pitcher at an A’s game a few years back. It’s not just pretty, this imagery puts you into the game. It’s addictive. It’s fun.
Is your website interactive, fun and pretty? I’ll be honest, I like good clean design. If your site appears to be the Midway of Fun Carnival or crammed with flashing ads and pop up boxes then I’m not going to be on the page very long. Did you notice the colors in the screen capture? Blue sky, green grass, black and orange? It makes sense! If you have two dozen colors and fonts and appear to be embracing “all the colors of the wind” then you most likely don’t look fun and creative, your website looks like a 3 year old who just discovered the Crayola 64 pack.
MLB Gameday is not a video game, you can’t spin around to see the play in action (that’s fine, it’s not live action) but they do make subtle changes. Like whether the batter is left or right handed. It may seem silly until you’re watching how the pitches come into the zone. Makes a big difference to the interactive user experience. What this tells me is that MLB knows what their audience knows. In this image from the Giant’s last whipping of the Cardinals you can see the batter is wearing the St. Louis uniform.Pay attention to the details that your audience expects to see.
Now, briefly I’ll describe what you don’t get with MLB Gameday:
hot dogs and peanut vendors shouting
advertisements all over the infield wall
changing light conditions
I was a little surprised that the field didn’t “go dark” as we went into evening but when you think about it MLB has removed one of the most annoying aspects of live games: not being able to see the field. You don’t need to squint when you’re facing the sun or put on your glasses when the field gets dark. Which highlights an important lesson you don’t have to recreate every aspect of an experience, you can improve it.
Imagine if coaches who sold “virtual tickets” to their live events required the virtual attendee to spend five minutes finding their seats. Absurd, right? Live and virtual events are different and have to be thought through differently. There may be no popcorn when you watch MLB Gameday but you’re also less likely to be hit by a stray ball.
What elements does MLB include?
For one there’s these great recap sidebars that don’t interfere with the pitching info but give a great overview. Who’s pitching, hitting and how many throws so far? It’s great info and easy to compare to the game stats at the top of the page.
Why do I love this so much? You’ve got to give your audience a way to “catch up” easily, especially when you’re giving a ton of content.
See that blue box that says “scout” in the middle? It’s telling the viewer that the pitcher is favoring fastballs and the hitter is better against that pitch. Yes, I know this is just a game but don’t you love how they’re teaching, empowering and training the user with this info? You don’t need to memorize the line up or every single stat to be immediately in the know and up to date on the count.
Let’s take a closer look at the banner of the page. Here you see from l-to-r the game and score, inning, upcoming games with dates and times. Of course the series could be over by Oct 28th with 3 more SF wins. That’s the “if” from the title – if this, then that. If Tigers don’t come up with 7 runs in the top of the 9th then get two more outs then the Giants win.
Right below this banner is the recap of the innings, what happened, how many runs hits and errors. How can entrepreneurs create their own scoreboard?
Give your clients a map – we’re going to have 7 calls, each one is 90 minutes. Here’s what we’ll accomplish on each call. Here’s what happened in the last week. Creating this “scoreboard” will enable your audience to know what’s happened and what to look forward to.
Check out this sidebar video that popped up at the end of the game. Here they pan the crowd to highlight the support of Stand Up to Cancer, including the website to get more info. This brings you into the game, giving an opportunity for fans to feel like they’re at the stadium, in the community, belong to the cause. Below this another short video and a highlight clip of Sandoval becoming the 4th player ever to hit 3 home runs during a World Series (and it’s only game 1). This is the “and” from the title – give your audience more. And, check this out. And, did you know. And, here’s more great content. Because that’s how you find your fans, by giving them more and finding out who clicks on every link, watches every video and reads all the content.
What about the butts? Well, if you don’t make it realistic enough then some people are going to get turned off so be real, have fun and remember that great sites are engaging, entertaining, educational and give ifs, ands & butts!