Major League Baseball Ad Campaigns Focus on Recapturing Wayward Fans

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NEW YORK -- Major League Baseball plans to have better pitching this season, and it won't have anything to do with fastballs and sliders.

Television spots will bombard viewers the next few months as baseball tries to lure its wayward fans back. The season will be the first in four that will start with labor peace between owners and players.

"This is the dawning of a new era," said Major League Baseball marketing chief Greg Murphy. "We've had some problems in the past, but the momentum is now all positive." Such optimistic talk is common from baseball people in March, except that usually it's about rookie left-handers and perennially bad teams. A more accurate measure of how forgiving fans are will come in September with attendance figures in small markets such as Milwaukee and Pittsburgh. One man familiar with baseball's March bravado is advertising guru Jeff Goodby of San Francisco's Goodby Silverstein & Co. Goodby has won a fistful of Clio awards and is the mastermind behind the "Got Milk?" campaign and inventor of the National Basketball Association's catch phrase "I Love This Game." "When the atmosphere is optimistic and good, an advertising campaign can speed up the recovery," Goodby said. "If things are going bad it can slow down the decline. But in and of itself, an advertising campaign can't revive a sport." Baseball hired Goodby in 1995 to try to sell the game to fans immediately after the seven-month strike that wiped out the 1994 World Series. His agency came up with the "Welcome to the Show" campaign, which was doomed to fail after owners pulled it after a few months. Last season, Major League Baseball's campaign had a new catch phrase -- "What A Game" -- and featured soul singer Aretha Franklin, rapper LL Cool J, country singer Mary-Chapin Carpenter and rock band the Goo Goo Dolls singing Take Me Out to the Ball Game. The campaign didn't change many fans' minds. An offseason poll by Major League Baseball found many were still turned off by the game. Another found that baseball trailed both the NBA and National Football League in fan popularity, and was being challenged by the National Hockey League for third place. This year's campaign will feature fan-friendly players and try to pull on heartstrings -- a common theme for baseball. …