How Technology is Pushing the Giants to Be the All Star Team
It’s no secret that the San Francisco Bay Area is home to two things: a hyper-connected technology savvy population and one of the more diehard fan bases in baseball’s San Francisco Giants. Now, those two things may be coming together to make one of our national pastime’s honored traditions — fan voting for the All Star team — dominated by the San Francisco Giants.
As of June 4th, Giants position players are currently leading the ballot at catcher and third base, and are in second place at first base, second base and shortstop. Additionally, they have outfielders close on the tail of the final third spot in sixth and eighth place. The only player on that list remotely deserving of a starting All Star spot is starting catcher Buster Posey. Giants third baseman Pedro Sandoval is having an average year, easily outpaced by the Mets’ David Wright, Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter, Reds’ Todd Frazier and Padres’ Chase Headly. Journeyman second baseman Marco Scutaro is having a career year and might deserve backup consideration to the Reds’ Brandon Phillips. But otherwise, none of these players have any business being All Stars. Yet, if the final weeks’ voting trends occur as expected, you should see a National League All Star team with at least three, if not as many as six, Giants out of the eight elected starters.
At first one would expect that the Giants’ home attendance is the main part of the cause. But they are actually second in home attendance, behind the Dodgers and slightly ahead of the Cardinals. If attendance were the cause, one would also expect the Dodgers and Cardinals to also be faring well in All Star balloting. They are not, with just one player between the two still in contention, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, and he is a long shot to pass the Giants’ Buster Posey.
And 2013 is no fluke. In 2012, the Giants started three players and successfully executed a final week campaign that saw Sandoval pass David Wright. So, what is happening here? Why are the Giants dominating the balloting compared to others, even teams with similar-to-better attendance figures? The answer is a combination of social media, in-stadium wifi, a tech-savvy hyper-connected fan base and the league’s most sophisticated digital marketing team.
Wired magazine captured what was happening last year:
Two years after a major victory, the Giants organization bolstered its marketing and social media efforts to get its players into the All Star Game. Through Twitter, Facebook and Google+, San Francisco Giants social media gurus posted messages urging fans to vote. TV, radio and banner ads also provided near-constant reminders.
While fans watched games at AT&T Park, the Giants’ SoMa-based ballpark, messages on the scoreboard told them to cast their All Star votes on brand-new HP touchscreen all-in-one computers installed at various locations inside the park. AT&T iPhone-toting spectators enjoyed signal boosters so they could vote while knocking back a beer at their seat. And those on a different wireless network could use the stadium’s WiFi service to connect with the mobile voting site.
The Mets, whose David Wright fell victim to his trend in 2012, don’t have in-stadium wifi and didn’t have the technology or social media sophistication of the Giants. New York Mets blogger Matthew Cerrone summed up the difference:
Here’s the thing, the Giants…[a]re widely considered to be the best organization in sports at connecting with and motivating fans to act online. The Giants also have vote-enabled kiosks in their ballparks, in addition to traditional ballots, as well as free Wi-Fi throughout the park, which makes it easier for fans to vote at games using their mobile phone.
Media people in baseball all say results are typically fueled by in-stadium voting during the last two weeks that votes can be cast, whether with online or paper ballot.
The Mets do not have free Wi-Fi. Actually, it’s quite difficult to keep a consistent connection on your phone in Citi Field. Also, in order to make kiosks most effective you need lots and lots of people in the ballpark, which the Mets do not have these days.
Technology can be leveraged in the strangest ways these days, and baseball’s All Star game is learning its power. Kudos to the San Francisco Giants and their fans for realizing this.
So when you are watching the American League take on the San Francisco Giants as opposed to the National League All Stars at, ironically, the Mets home Citi Field on July 16, remember that it was a team leveraging technology and a diehard tech-savvy fan base, not democracy, that led to that result.