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Where Does Baseball Go With “Pokemon Go” Craze?


In its short time of existence, “Pokemon Go” has captivated players around the globe, creating a sensation that spread so widely that ballparks are now one of the game’s hubs.

“Pokemon Go” launched for iOS and Android users in the United States on July 6, has gained considerable momentum, as some estimates say it was downloaded roughly 7.5 million times by July 11. July 11 was also when we ran this story—an announcement from the Durham Bulls (Class AAA; International League) that Durham Bulls Athletic Park would be open on July 12 for “Pokemon Go” players. For a $5 fee, players had access to the seating bowl and field from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

That promotion was notable in that it was one the first to be announced, but last week saw the floodgates open when it came to “Pokemon Go” at the ballpark. The Columbus Clippers (Class AAA; International League) followed the Bulls with a similar promotion, which saw the team open the Huntington Park for two hours on Thursday.

In both instances, the Bulls and Clippers hosted “Pokemon Go” events on days where there was no game scheduled to be played at the ballpark. For many teams, however, “Pokemon Go” is now being tied into theme nights, effectively allowing a convergence of the app and live baseball action.

Within the last week, numerous teams have announced one-day promotions that grant extensive access to areas around and beyond the ballpark. The Omaha Storm Chasers (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) and Gwinnett Braves (Class AAA: International League) got in on the action on July 16, while the Midland RockHounds (Class AA; Texas League) staged a similar event the next day. Rather than confining players to one area, the Jackson Generals (Class AA; Southern League) participated in a community-wide tournament on July 17.

Other teams, however, will keep the ballpark at the center of the action. The Inland Empire 66ers (High A; California League) are embracing the trend on a broad scale, as a weekly “Pokemon Go” celebration will be hosted during every remaining Sunday home game this season. Players can show the app at the box office for $5 admission, before entering the ballpark and being treated to a slate of offerings that include gym badges and field access following the game.

The most common approach is the one-day “Pokemon Go” celebration, which is being offered by numerous teams across multiple levels—including independent and summer collegiate ranks—and announcements about new promotions seem to be coming on a daily basis. In fact, the trend has even extended to the majors, where the Milwaukee Brewers will offer a “Pokemon Go” celebration on July 26.

At its core, “Pokemon Go” offers a few elements that MiLB teams are in some ways tying into their theme nights. The technology not only encourages connectivity, but the game’s augmented reality format allow the ballparks to become a part of the game’s landscape. Furthermore, there is a nostalgia factor with the game’s content, as Pokemon anime series began airing in the United States in 1998. For those that may have reconnected to the series through “Pokemon Go,” the effect might be the same for those that reboots of film franchises and TV shows, which MiLB has been celebrating at a high rate. Combine those elements with the fact that “Pokemon Go” has become a popular game for players of all ages, and it is easy to see why so many teams want in on the action.

The question that remains is, as more and more teams roll out promotions, what comes next? Should “Pokemon Go” have the staying power to still be worthy of ballpark theme nights through the 2017 season—something that remains a major question—teams could perhaps get in on the act of sponsored “Pokemon Go” locations.

It has not taken long for “Pokemon Go” to be leveraged into corporate partnerships and, with McDonalds now sponsoring locations across Japan, it may only be a matter of time before this model broadens to the game’s international reach. More from TechCrunch:

That’ll be a collaboration to watch since it will be replicated in other parts of the world and, if Pokémon Go can sustain itself beyond a temporary craze, sponsorship could be lucrative for both the game makers and brands seeking to drive foot traffic. Bloomberg reported that McDonald’s Japan has already seen its share price rocket thanks to Pokemon-branded Happy Meal sales, even before the game launch.

A few points would have to be considered in this instance, mainly if a sponsorship could be obtained affordably and be offered at the right times. Should a baseball team be able to strike reasonable partnership, the act of sponsorship may supplant one-day promotions. Otherwise, the trend that is unfolding now—and is taking place beyond baseball—will likely continue.

For now “Pokemon Go” looks poised to dominate baseball’s promotional calendars for the remainder of the summer. Beyond this season, however, the convergence of baseball and “Pokemon Go” may be taken under a very different approach.

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