“As we all know, [the] world of information consumption is changing dramatically and as an organization, we recognize that many of you who are dedicated fans also have the ability to speak to other fans around the world,” said Rawitch. “We want you to be as informed as possible and the best way to do that, as the mainstream media has known for centuries, is with access to those who make news and make decisions.”
The Dodgers first official engagement with the team’s leading bloggers was in April of 2008 when Rawitch hosted a “Blogger Night” at a regular season game. The team provided a luxury box as the venue and offered an open forum with owner Frank McCourt, General Manager Ned Colletti and Special Advisor to the Chairman (and Dodger legend) Tommy Lasorda. The team followed up with a similar event in March 2009 at the new Camelback Ranch Spring Training facility and then again in May 2009 at the second Blogger Night at Dodger Stadium where Colletti and Executive Vice President of Creative and Communications Dr. Charles Steinberg answered questions from the bloggers in attendance.
“We have had full support throughout the organization on this from ownership on down,” said Rawitch. “As you know, the first Blogger Night even presented an opportunity for you all to meet with Frank McCourt, so obviously he and Jamie, our CEO, are extremely welcoming of this new medium, as are Dennis (Mannion, President and CEO of the Dodgers) and Charles (Steinberg).”
Neither the Dodgerfan.net staff nor Josh Rawitch could cite any examples of many other major sports organizations going to such lengths to embrace social media, with the lone exception being the New York Islanders’ “Blog Box” program which, comparitively, is not as extensive as what the Dodgers are unveiling in 2009, as contact to players, coaches and traditional media is limited. With the Dodgers’ program, the participating bloggers have complete media access and are trusted to act in a professional and respective manner (i.e.: no team clothing or cheering – something that is surprisingly hard to do).
But in the grand scheme of communciations, what does this all really mean? In my opinion, the Dodgers are embracing all outlets (regardless of medium) that are serious about discussing their brand, and they are providing access and information that allows those of us that communciate about the team to be as informed and educated as possible. I can say without a doubt that our stories here on Dodgerfan.net are better as a result of this access, but we go to great pains to make sure that it doesn’t cloud our own editorial decision-making.
Rawitch agrees, “…there’s a very exciting buzz online about extending our reach into the world of social media. As long as our fans are informed and talking about the Dodgers and sharing their passion for the team – the highs and lows – it has the chance to be a really good thing. In addition, it connects the Dodger brand to fans around the globe (and those who aren’t even fans yet), which is important to us organizationally.”
Major League Baseball is also watching. “They were very supportive,” said Rawitch. “Pat Courtney, Vice President of Communications at Major League Baseball, basically said, ‘Good for you…let us know how it goes.’ I’d imagine they’re going to keep an eye on this, as it’s a topic we’ve all talked about regularly at our annual PR meetings for a couple of years now and this is part of the natural progression.”
Regardless of your views on whether or not this is a good thing, it will be very interesting to see how social media evolves and changes the way we communicate as a people.
When asked about the future of social media within the world sports, Rawitch responded, “I really think it’s going to become part of the culture at sporting events to the point where fans on the field will be ‘chatting’ with fans in the pavillions and all around the stadium during games. It’s already taking place to some extent, in raw form. But college kids today (and anyone younger than them) have pretty much grown up knowing nothing other than the Internet, and it will be the sports industry’s job to adapt to the way they live their lives, not the other way around. We have to be cognizant of the fact that not all of our fans will get their information through social media, which is why the traditional media still plays an extremely important role in information dissemination. But none of us know how how the majority of the world will get its ‘news’ 10 years from now. I’m just not that smart!”
Maybe not smart enough to predict the future of communication, but smart enough to embrace how people are communciating today, with an eye towards the future - something that all professional sports organizations can appreciate and learn from as they court a younger audience.
Ok, back to the game…