Baseball Hall of Fame: A Case of Hitting a Mobile Homerun

May 22, 2015


Article ImageCOMPANY: National Baseball Hall of Fame

Located in Cooperstown, N.Y., the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum (BHOF) is a not-for-profit educational institution dedicated to fostering an appreciation of the historical development of baseball and its impact on culture by preserving and exhibiting its collections, as well as honoring people for their contributions to the game.

baseballhall.org

BUSINESS CHALLENGE: The Baseball Hall of Fame wanted to release an app that would not just teach people about baseball history, but also entice them to visit the BHOF itself.

VENDOR OF CHOICE: Sullivan

New York-based Sullivan is a multi-disciplinary brand engagement firm dedicated to connecting customers to brands at, the company says, "the very moments they're likely to make decisions." In support of this objective, Sullivan offers a variety of integrated services to its clients.

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PROBLEM-IN-DEPTH: While BHOF attendance continues to be robust -- the museum drew 300,000 people in 2014, according to Brad Horn, the Hall's vice president of communications and education -- the BHOF wanted to entice still more people to visit, as well as get those already coming more excited about their journey.

"As an institution, we felt having a mobile, trip-planning application that would help visitors and potential visitors be introduced to baseball history while planning their journey to Cooperstown was a natural fit for our relationship as a national tourist destination in New York State," Horn says.

It was important for the BHOF to include in the app "the assets central to our mission, that will help extend awareness of what the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum represents," Horn says.

"I think you'll find, talking to any baseball fan, Cooperstown and coming to the Baseball Hall of Fame is on their bucket list," adds Donny Lowe, director of digital strategy, for the BHOF. "What we really wanted to do was to activate them; generate interest in their local market in baseball history, and provide a mechanism that constantly pointed them to Cooperstown."

Horn also wanted to show off "the breadth and depth" of the BHOF's collection. At any given time, there is only 10-12% of the collection on display, Horn says, and the app "will be another medium for fans to see significant pieces of baseball history - some that will be featured in the context of the museum presentation, others that won't be on display - to give them a sense of how history is preserved here at the Hall of Fame."

SOLUTION IN-DEPTH: Lowe says the BHOF was already familiar with Sullivan and when the decision was made to release an app, "we knew that Sullivan would do a good job."

"They came to us to sort of help bring their experience to life and drive more visitation to the actual location in Cooperstown," says Alison Grippo, principal of digital strategy, at Sullivan.

The app shows off artifacts, historic images, and video from the BHOF - and it also incorporates geotagging, for one of its more interesting aspects, which lets users know when they're near a historical baseball site, and provides complementary information.

The geotagging and geolocations were "meant to provide a local version of baseball history no matter where you were, and I would say that that was one of the cooler features that we had," Grippo said. "We created these sort of 'road trips,' so if you wanted to sort of take a vacation or journey through one of your favorite teams, you could use the app to sort of help you guide that, check into a lot of places, and complete your trip and like earn badges for your rewards, and ultimately make the pilgrimage to Cooperstown."

While driving people to Cooperstown was a big goal for the app, "another big goal was really to give people baseball back," Grippo says. "Put it in their hands. Make that national pastime something that they carry around."

THE OUTCOME: The Beacon was released in late March -- the eve of the baseball season -- and the results have been positive. Upon its release, the app only spotlighted locations in New York State. But the BHOF plans to add other markets during the summer -- starting with Boston by late May. (Horn points out Pedro Martinez is being inducted to the BHOF this July, "so Red Sox fans will have heightened interest.")

While the BHOF is waiting until it launches the app in a few other markets before marketing it heavily, "the feedback we have gotten has been positive," Lowe says, referencing an email the BHOF recently received basically saying, "I was just at a game at Citi Field, downloaded the app, and took in all of these great historic baseball sights. Thank you so much."

"We've gotten countless emails like that" from fans in the New York market, Lowe says. "It's been a real rewarding experience for them."

"We're extremely hopeful that once we populate a few more markets and then actually start marketing the thing fully, that more baseball fans are really just going to enjoy the experience," Lowe says.

The Beacon is available for free through iTunes.