#CapsOn: New Era campaign swings and misses

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As much as I love Christmas, I’m convinced that now is the most wonderful time of the year— baseball season. Opening Day offers a fresh start for all 30 Major League Baseball (MLB) clubs and gives new hope for fans of all teams. Whether you root for the reigning champ Chicago Cubs, or the bottom-of-the-barrel Minnesota Twins, your team has a chance at the title right now. With the new season, apparel companies like New Era — MLB’s official hat provider — have the opportunity to launch campaigns to boost their sales. This year’s campaign, “#CapsOn,” whiffs at rallying fans around a philanthropic purpose and instead only goes so far as to promote consumerism. Rather than focus solely on their revenue streams, New Era and MLB should incorporate a charity campaign into their efforts.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a fun campaign to unite baseball fans, and I participated Monday. The MLB and New Era are pouring so much effort into it, however, that they should be concentrating their effort in ways that align with MLB’s other campaigns such as “Stand Up to Cancer” — arguably the league’s most successful philanthropic venture. The campaign was on full display during Game 4 of the 2016 World Series, when players and fans alike stood up to honor those affected by cancer.

The #CapsOn campaign produced a 30-second commercial in which some of the game’s biggest stars told viewers to “get their cap on” come baseball season. One of the athletes, Jose Altuve, told me to wear my cap to school. Check that, Jose. I just wish me doing so supported a greater cause, instead of following New Era baseball cap director Tony DeSimone’s marketing strategy.

“[The campaign] allowed us to invest more dollars earlier in the year while also gaining valuable retail space in store and online for our MLB-licensed caps four weeks earlier than in years past,” DeSimone said.

After reading this quote, I felt a little dirty supporting a movement that celebrates baseball but creates nothing more than an investment opportunity for apparel companies. 

The campaign video spread wildly — it became New Era’s most-liked video on Facebook ever, serving as one of the starting points to a larger social media movement that the MLB will take this year. This movement will sometimes give baseball fans an inside look into the life of their favorite players on MLB’s Snapchat Day March 11, for example, but also will serve as a marketing tool.

“Combined with MLB, we’ll be getting a lot of impressions from a brand perspective, and from a sales perspective It should drive people to their local stadium store or Lids store to buy a cap,” DeSimone said.

Again, ew. While New Era is an organization primarily concerned with making money, I still believe that as a successful and well-known business should still be conscious of campaigns attempting to fight diseases like cancer instead of solely concerning their efforts in on the bottom line.

Social media campaigns can be effective at supporting a cause: the Black Lives Matter movement grew largely as a hashtag, and the ALS Foundation gained enough money from the Ice Bucket Challenge to find a new ALS gene.

New Era’s social media influence will not only help them economically but can also serve as an outlet for them to bring about change. If not through social media, then maybe they could work with any of the 200+ city mayors they partnered with to promote the #CapsOn initiative to help those in need, rather than their own profits.

Another puzzling piece to this specific campaign’s lack of philanthropy is the fact that MLB is very involved in charity, scientific research and public outreach. MLB hosts 16 foundations or movements in their MLB Community, each of which aims to bring awareness or change regarding a social issue, whether it be racial justice or autism awareness.

Once again I ask: If the MLB is willing to partner with MasterCard to fight cancer at the end of the season, why are they not partnering with New Era to bring forth a relevant issue at the beginning of the season, rather than just trying to improve their own bottom line?

I’m not sure what the answer is. Maybe I’ll have to go put my #ThinkingCapOn.

Brendan Galbreath is an undeclared first-year and can be reached at bgalbreath@oxy.edu.