SBJ/Feb. 9-15, 2015/Leagues and Governing Bodies

After 4 years, MLB seals the Fan Cave

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Some ideas from the Fan Cave will live on, but MLB plans to come up with new uses for the New York City space.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
MLB is shutting down the Fan Cave, its much-acclaimed 4-year-old social media hub in New York City, representing an early sign of the unification of business operations under new Commissioner Rob Manfred.

The move, led by Bob Bowman, president of business and media, is an attempt to consolidate all of baseball’s social media activities under MLB Advanced Media and the MLB Network. MLBAM had its own active social media agenda separate from the Fan Cave, often creating confusion on matters such as who would take a lead role in promoting coming MLB events.

“We’re trying to be more coordinated in all of our social media efforts,” Bowman said. “This change in structure is helping all of us focus on the same goals, and by putting all of the social media together, we hope to have a more consistent and effective message.”

The Fan Cave was developed and overseen by Tim Brosnan, who recently left the league after a lengthy tenure as executive vice president of business. Tony Petitti, recently promoted to MLB’s chief operating officer, oversees marketing in his new role and will guide the newly consolidated social media activities.

Several Fan Cave components are likely to live on, including its concert series featuring up-and-coming acts and the creation of viral content with players outside the ballpark. But the original Fan Cave premise of having a group of selected fans watch every game of a season will cease.

MLB’s lifestyle show developed in partnership with Viacom-owned MTV2, “Off the Bat from the MLB Fan Cave,” also has been discontinued after one season.

The Fan Cave was a pet project of Brosnan, opening in spring 2011 after just a few frantic weeks of preparation. The effort went on to win industry awards and generate hundreds of millions of social media impressions during its four-year run. The effort appealed to young fans and instantly became a cultural hit among casual baseball followers for its mix of music and social media components. It also was a popular draw among players.

Bowman said the decision to shift away from the Fan Cave does not represent a repudiation of the idea or of Brosnan.

“It would be a shame if that’s the conclusion people come to,” Bowman said. “Every asset needs to be reviewed and analyzed, and after four years, it was due for that kind of review. It was a very good idea to have a major presence like that in Manhattan and engage with players in new ways. I think what we’re doing is actually an attempt to extend its life instead of end it.”

Other changes in MLB’s structure are expected in the coming weeks as Bowman and Petitti reshape baseball’s business leadership below them and line out their priorities heading into the 2015 season. The league last week named Anomaly as its new multimedia creative marketing agency after previously working with BBDO and Hill Holliday.

MLB still has several years on its lease for the Fan Cave location, previously a Tower Records store, in New York’s Greenwich Village. Bowman said he has several ideas to repurpose the space, including creating pop-up retail stores there during peak points of the baseball calendar such as Opening Day, the All-Star Game and the postseason. He also envisions using the space to showcase MLBAM’s suite of digital products.

“We’re committed to the space, it’s a hot area, and we don’t have a retail space in Manhattan,” Bowman said. “So doing things there, at least on a pop-up basis to start, we think could be very beneficial to our licensing partners. And we think it could be an interesting way to show our technology in action.”

The original design of the Fan Cave was specifically to not be a retail presence, so a move to create a store there would represent a significant shift in strategy. New Era, one of MLB’s key licensees, operates its own New York flagship store around the corner from the Fan Cave location.

Staff writer Terry Lefton contributed to this report.

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