The Toronto Blue Jays – R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention today is Social Media Day.

The MLB has adopted social media probably better than any of the other major sports leagues and today they are leveraging social media to get fans involved with their teams.

One way they are embracing social media today is the caption contest where fans are asked to come up with the best caption for a picture of a player from a specific team.

I found a link this morning that took me to a picture of JoJo Reyes during a post-game interview after he broke his 28 game winless streak. In this picture JoJo Reyes is receiving the standard Blue Jay treatment for any Blue Jay who achieves something great during a game and is awarded the post-game interview; in this case JoJo Reyes is getting a bucket of Gatorade (presumably) dumped over his head by his catcher JP Arencibia.

I thought that this was a great contest and a great way to get fans involved. I added my caption and was ready tweet it when at the bottom of the Caption Contest page was a disclaimer stating “By Filling out this form, I agree to the rules of the MLB.com Twitter Caption Contest.” 

Having entered a lot of contests recently, I always read the rules to make sure that I am eligible. I figured that since I’d found this contest link through the @BlueJays twitter account and it took me to a page on the Blue Jays website that I would be eligible for the contest.

I clicked on the link to view the rules and regulations, while reading the eligibility though, this is what I found:

For anyone who can’t read the print above, it says “The Contest is open only to legal residents of the fifty (50) United States and Washington D.C. …”

I was on the Toronto Blue Jays page, looking at a picture taken at Rogers Centre (Skydome) in Toronto Ontario, that was featuring a SportsNet Report, and two Toronto Blue Jays players JoJo Reyes and JP Arencibia, yet I was not eligible to participate in the Caption Contest because I do not reside within on of the fifty States or Washington D.C.

My first reaction was: “Wow a major #FAIL by the @MLB with their Caption Contest, Jays have a pic, but look at the rules #jays”, which I tweeted from my @Sadie_Liz twitter account.

The Toronto Blue Jays have been a part of the MLB since 1977, a span of 34 years and yet the Blue Jays and their fans are still often treated as second class citizen by the MLB and sports media.

This MLB run contest was only open to Americans, despite there being a Canadian team that is support by million of Canadians from East coast all the way to the West Coast. I am sure this is not the first MLB contest like this, nor will it be the last.

It is not all that surprising though, outside of Canada the Jays and Jays fans get very little respect or recognition. If the Yankees beat the Blue Jays, the Yankees are said to have “Destroyed the Jays”. If the Jays beat the Yankees though the “Jays Get Lucky in Win Over Yankees” or “Yankees stumble in loss to Blue Jays”.

When Toronto loses, the other team is said to dominate, or crush. When the Jays win though the Jays are said to have gotten lucky, or the other team is said to have stumbled. Toronto is rarely said to have ‘destroyed’ or ‘outdone’ their opponents, even if that is precisely the case. They Jays rarely see top billing for new articles on their wins on sites like ESPN or even MLB.com.

Despite 34 years in the MLB and back-to-back World Series Championships in 1992 and 1993, the Jays are the forgotten and looked down upon team of the MLB (not to say that there aren’t others). The Jays are in the hardest division in the MLB. They currently have arguably the best play in the MLB in Jose Bautista; In years past they arguably had the best pitcher in the MLB in Doc Halladay, but the Blue Jays still don’t see the coverage or praise that other teams do by sports media and even the MLB, (though the MLB had improved greatly thanks to their use of social media this year, there have been a number of video tweets showing plays and hits by Blue Jays).

Canada may only have one team across the entire nation, (after the Expos got moved to Washington and renamed the Nationals). That team though has the support of the entire nation and will not be silenced by the naivety of the MLB and sports media. This is our team, and we are proud of them. We will stand behind them and fight for them as hard as we can and if you won’t talk about them we will. We will blog, we will tweet, we will podcast, we will write, we will sing, we will promote our Jays.  We can and we do make a difference, you need proof, look at who is leading the All-Star Balloting this year. I would hazard to bet a number of those votes came from north of the border. Toronto is a good team, with good players, who fight yearly against the hardest division in the AL. After 34 years I think it is time for a bit more respect for the team and fans from Canada, don’t you?

Twitter Blue Birds are really Blue Jays #jays #mlb

So if anyone reading this is following me on twitter (@Sadie_Liz) you will already know that I am a huge Toronto Blue Jays fan. You may also know that I am a communications consultant, who is big into social media.

This season many professional athletes have taken to twitter, creating accounts, interacting with other players and even fans. You can follow a list of professional MLB Players or follow a number of individual players like Toronto Blue Jays JP Arencibia (@jparencibia9), Jose Bautista (@JoeyBats19), Travis Snider (@Lunchboxhero45), Ricky Romero (@RickyRo24), Jesse Litsch (@JesseLitsch), Brett Cecil (@CEC0208) and soon to be reactivated Brandon Morrow (@2Morrow23). Turns out the Twitter Blue Bird is really a Blue Jay.

Last week JP Arencibia and Ricky Romero (I think it was) asked if they should try to get 2nd baseman Aaron Hill and utility man John McDonald on twitter. My answer was “Absolutely, Yes!”

Of course I would love to see veterans Hill and McDonald on twitter just because well, they are Hill and McDonald, what Jays fan doesn’t love those two, especially Johnny Mac, a fan favourite.

I’ve thought about this from a marketing and communications perspective though. I believe twitter can be hugely beneficial to a team like Toronto.

  • Blue Jays are not just a Toronto team, they are a Canadian team. The fan base for the Blue Jays is from coast to coast and twitter helps to overcome the geographical distance for fans
  • The Blue Jays organization is built on ‘imports’. Meaning that with the exception of a few (Stairs, Richmond, Lawrie) all of the players are coming from outside of Canada. Even if there were players from inside Canada, it wouldn’t be like Hockey where the Canadians come up through the CHL and World Juniors and are highly familiar to the Canadian Public. Twitter will give fans access and insight into who the Toronto Blue Jays players really are, it will humanize them beyond their celebrity status. And this is even more important for the guys who are just coming up, or who were acquired through trades. Fans got to know Doc and Vernon Wells and invested years into them and now they’re gone. Fans need to find new favourite players and Twitter will help speed and intensify that process.
  • Over the years a number of fans have disengaged due to the fact that Jays haven’t seen the top of the AL East since their back to back World Series Wins. This has caused a decrease in game attendance and likely merchandising. By having Blue Jays players on twitter engaging with fans or participating in ‘Twitter Parties’ on off days  (not something that has yet happened) Toronto will be cultivating a new group of fans or re-engaging fans who have long since disconnected from the Toronto team.I was a huge Blue Jays fan as a kid, and while I’ve always been a big fan, I’ve been more engaged this year than any other year because of the players who are on Twitter. I’m getting to know the players that make up the teams. I almost feel like they’re guys from down the street, or someone I know from somewhere, instead of celebrity athletes. I’m invested in this team, their wins and their losses, how they handle the wins and losses and in the personal details that they share through their Twitter accounts. I feel connected to these players and I want to see them succeed. I wish I could go to their games and give them the support that people always gave me when I was playing. If I am feeling this way, I can’t imagine others aren’t feeling the same.If people are more connected to the team and engaged by the players they are going to watch more games, buy tickets and go to more games, spend more money at the ball park or online in the Jays store, or contribute more to the Jays Care foundation because it is something their ‘friends’ value  and therefore they value.
  • John McDonald is probably the most popular player on the Blue Jays team, at least I would contend that he is because last season when a little boy could choose any player he wanted to throw the opening pitch to, he chose Johnny Mac and the crowd roared. Johnny Mac has been one of my favourite players since he arrived. I’ve always cheered for him and been thrilled when he gets to see playing time. There is just something about him that is endearing. He is the underdog, the average Joe. Last season some sports analysts said that he didn’t deserve his spot on the roster, but fans disagreed and so thankfully did Cito. Johnny Mac by everything the fans know, is the hardest working person on the Blue Jays team. He doesn’t play every day, but he works hard everyday to be sure that if he is on the field he is ready. When he is on the field it is amazing to watch him work and succeed. To see him excel when he gets a day on the field is like a win for the little guy, even though he is probably the best utility player in the league. Now take that and think of him from a Marketing Perspective. He is the Jerome “JYD” Williams of the Blue Jays. He might not be as outlandish as JYD is, but he is just as, if not more beloved by the Blue Jay fans across the country. John McDonald has more ‘star power’ within the Toronto fan base than probably any other Blue Jay, though JP Arencibia may be taking over the young female demographic, so having a beloved veteran like him on Twitter would be HUGE. He feels like a guy you’ve known forever for some reason. If he got on Twitter, he would have droves of followers in no time. Twitter would connect people that much more to the already most relatable guy on the team. Honestly how many Blue Jays fans wouldn’t want to find a way to make it to a game if Johnny Mac tweeted a plea to fans to come out and support the team. Or if Johnny Mac tweeted about Jays Care, who wouldn’t try to scrounge up some spare change or canned goods to help? Johnny Mac is a fan favourite already, I have a feeling that would translate to Twitter and fans would just be on cloud nine, and if marketing decided to use that to their advantage, well they’d probably end up pretty happy.Even if marketing didn’t jump on that, all of the players are invested in the team and the work the team does. They want the team to succeed, the want the causes they support to succeed. The players are passionate about their team and they want to see fans return to their former glory of the World Series Years, who wouldn’t. I know when I played baseball not only did I want to win, I wanted to have the crowd energized, it makes the game that much more exciting as a player. Every player they get on Twitter, especially the fan favourites like Johnny Mac, Hill and rising stars like JP Arencibia, Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow, the more fans are going to invest in the team emotionally and probably more importantly invest with bums in the seats, increased ticket sales and merchandise sales.

From my perspective the Jays already on Twitter absolutely need to be getting some of the other Jays on Twitter as well, especially fan favourite veterans like Hill and McDonald. It’s time to get this nation excited about the boys of summer and it has to start somewhere. If the players are pumped and have a never die attitude that is evident to the fans how can the fans not follow suit?

It’s time for the Blue Jays Nation 2.0!  Let’s go! Blue Jays! Let’s Go!