When promotions go too far

31 05 2011

Major League Baseball has done an exceptional job during the last five (or so) years at recognizing opportunities for monetization. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the holiday-specific memorabilia it creates, particularly in its Stars & Stripes collection of hats and apparel for Memorial Day and the 4th of July.

In past years, the league has produced specialized hats for players to wear during games simply by dressing each team’s logo with the style and colors of the American flag. MLB took it a step further this year by continuing its American flag-inspired team logos and adding two types of hats for all teams to wear – each hat’s front panel is white with the back panel either light red of dark blue. For example, the Cubs wore hats with red back panels. The Dodgers wore ones with blue back panels. MLB set up a shop for its Stars & Stripes collection on its online store, which it vigorously promotes on the MLB.com home page.

The intention with this collection is obvious: MLB wants to streamline the holiday collection so that each team is wearing predominantly red and white or blue and white. The idea is to encourage patriotism; if people feel more emotionally attached to something, which patriotism can certainly inspire, then they’re more likely to purchase gear. That includes obscenely-priced gear, such as $36.99 hats. There’s something else bothersome about this phenomenon.

These promotions are simply disingenuous. I realize it’s business; MLB is going to do what it can to think of new ways to sell its products. That’s life and that’s business. But it feels like MLB is trying to rub the holiday in the customer’s face. It’s not enough to just celebrate and observe a holiday to recognize the significance of a day like Memorial Day. Now, MLB has its players wear red, white and blue to show that it cares. It’s too PR-inspired for my taste. I’m sure the league and its players are proud to be American – at least the ones that are – but I don’t need to see each team wear red, white and blue to feel more patriotic. I don’t need to know they’re patriotic.

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