It’s about time: Industry veteran Karin Timpone is the new Chief Marketing Officer for Major League Baseball, filling a position that’s been vacant since 2016.
It’s no secret that MLB is facing a variety of issues, ranging from lower TV ratings to lowered attendance at games. While the industry was healthy in pre-COVID times, it’s no secret that many within the game feel the game needs a defter touch in presenting good news to the public. Last week’s Field of Dreams game really showed the power of baseball, drawing the largest regular-season TV audience since 2015 and making headlines across the world after ninth-inning heroics from Tim Anderson, one of the bright new faces that MLB really needs to showcase during these changing times. The NFL and NBA are the hottest sports right now because they cater to a younger, diverse audience while also projecting a sense of tradition; MLB is not hot and doesn’t cater to a younger, diverse audience. (Want to know why? Because MLB does an incredibly crappy job at dealing with Black players and fans. Take a look at these stories from the Washington Post for some convincing evidence.)
So it’s clear that MLB needs someone smart to oversee these new marketing pathways. According to a press release, Timpone will lead MLB’s global marketing efforts and collaborate with executives across all revenue, product, and operations units as well as the 30 MLB teams. Timpone, who will also oversee MLB Events and Design Services departments, brings a broad range of experience in helping global brands connect with new audiences, deepen customer loyalty and innovate with next-generation technology, such as blockchain.
Timpone has held senior positions leading high-profile brands including Marriott International, The Walt Disney Company, Yahoo!, and Universal Studios with an emphasis in digital, marketing and customer experience. Timpone has been recognized in Adweek’s roster of Top 50 in Media and Technology, and has been featured among the world’s most influential CMOs by Forbes, Business Insider, and Ad Age.
She will report to Chief Operations and Strategy Officer Chris Marinak.
“As Major League Baseball continues to invest in its marketing resources, Karin brings outstanding experience and accomplishments with a track record as a digital pioneer and marketing leader of major global brands,” Marinak said via press release. “Karin’s background at the cross-section of entertainment, media, digital, and marketing is a perfect fit to help deepen the connection MLB has with its fans while growing our fan base both domestically and internationally.”
Her appointment does show that MLB is serious about cleaning up its image on the marketing front. She’ll need to replicate the success of the NFL, NBA and even MLS in reaching a younger, diverse audience and shed MLB’s image of Grandpa trying to hang with the teens. (A loyalty program a la Bonvoy will not be the solution.) Still, there are some issues beyond the power of a CMO–like stressing racial equity within the sport, and stop with the sport’s obsession with players comprising a labor force that needs to be managed, rather than partners with shared goals–and until those issues are addressed in the commissioner’s office, MLB will still be facing an inevitable decline in the sports-marketing world.
Photo courtesy MLB.