Pittsburgh Pirates Embrace New Media At PiratesFest 2011

Pittsburgh Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle has been working the phones to recruit players to come to Pittsburgh to play for the Bucs. You gotta admit, Hurdle looks like a bad ass headhunter.

As we stood amidst thousands of Pittsburgh Pirates fans yesterday at PiratesFest 2011, it hit us.  The Pittsburgh Pirates have an unbelievable ability to invigorate their fan base…..in January. 

On a personal note, I am in the entertainment business and hands down, the Bucs do the business of entertainment amazingly well. When we look at what they accomplish it never ceases to amaze, but being in the business we also have some ideas that we have seen used by other organizations that could help our favorite ballclub.

The Pirates are an exciting team because of their youth. From the hustling sales team, to the front office to the players in uniform, it’s a fast organization. They seem to have fun. They look cool. They act cool.  They do funny shit (watch the Joel Hanrahan invasion video we linked below for a recent example.) The organization oozes youth and talent.  They also say funny shit.

“I am Jose Tabata from Venezuela and I like Black and Yellow.”

So why did PiratesFest feel so damn old yesterday?   So not youth-like, so slow, so….1995?

It has grown in size each year.  That’s a great thing.  But could it be even bigger?  We say the answer is a resounding yes. 

Now, it will take some work, but we have some thoughts that might help our favorite ballclub improve the reach of the amazing phenomenon known as PiratesFest.

What was one of the mediums used to convey information about PiratesFest? You guessed it

I enjoy Pirates baseball on the radio. Well, let me rephrase that, I enjoyed it more when Rocco DeMaro was involved. But the Pirates did have live coverage from PiratesFest. Wonder what ratings the broadcast pulled? How connected is radio to the Pirates fanbase? 

Why not allow bloggers to podcast from the event? 

What was another one of the mediums used for PiratesFest? Yeh...

Who doesn’t love watching the Pirates on their monster TV?  The Pirates had an FSN Inside Pirates Baseball special on Friday night from PiratesFest.  But much more popular was the interactive FSN/ROOT telecast booth on the floor of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. 

It’s important to remember that the Pirates signed an attractive deal with FSN last season.   The Bucs are a winner in this category.  Could it improve?  Sure.  But that falls more on FSN and its producers than it does on the Bucs.

As it relates to PiratesFest, we say TV simply isn’t the correct medium, so it’s not a focus of this post. 

But what if content was streaming on the Bucs facebook page, or bloggers were allowed to have webcams live at the Q&A?   

How well did the Pirates utilize this medium?

The internet was underutilized by the Pirates at PirateFest and we aren’t sure why. 

This slide still amazes us.

Despite having over 134,000 facebook friends on the Pirates facebook page, there was little content this weekend on their page which we cropped at 9:45 on Saturday night.  Maybe they will update it, so we could be speaking entirely too soon, but it seems like a lost opportunity.

Why wouldn’t the Bucs try and increase sales using facebook?  95% of the comments on their wall are glowingly positive.


The lack of incorporating the internet, the fastest growing medium on the planet,  by Major League Baseball is our million dollar question.  Why does MLB lag well behind the other major sports in using social media, bloggers, etc? 

It’s a question that we don’t have the answer to.  But we are trying to be part of the solution.

This weekend, we asked the Bucs to do something new.   Our goal was to meet some of you and thank you for visiting our site.  We envisioned a bloggers row where the other Pittsburgh Pirates blogs could interact in a social setting with like minded people.  We wanted to have an area to work from to provide content throughout the weekend for Pirates fans.  The idea was shot down a few months ago by the Pirates.

We tried to revive and modify the concept and made a last minute effort to have some involvement in PiratesFest.  Thanks to several people with the Pirates organization it worked  and sure enough late this week, we received a call from Matt with the Bucs and were told that several bloggers had an opportunity to conduct interviews with several members of the organization.    Most of the blogs have the content on their sites from the interviews at this time and it’s very high quality.  RumBunter simply isn’t great at interviews.  It’s a weakness we have.

The Q&A was great, but it wasn’t what we envisioned, but like we said on Twitter, it reminded us of getting a base on balls when the team is down by nine runs in the ninth inning.

In other words, ya gotta start somewhere.  Major League Baseball doesn’t really do new media.   But the Pittsburgh Pirates now do.

So what does social media have to do with being a Pittsburgh Pirates fan?  If you were to guess, how many visitors does our stupid website, RumBunter, get from outside Pennsylvania?   You will never guess, so let me tell you it makes up over 35% of our traffic throughout the season.  We are grateful for this and thank every one of them. 

But we also feel their pain.  Imagine how many people from outside of Pennsylvania, and even those who simply can’t attend, want to get their PiratesFest fix?   How do they get it? 

TV?  No.  Print?  Hell no.  Radio is out of reach and rather inconvenient.   So we will assume that those that don’t grab a stream off 104.7, simply say, ‘it sucks we can’t be at PirateFest’ and turn to another activity.  The Pirates opportunity to connect with the fanbase is lost.

So if a Pirates fan can’t attend PirateFest how do they connect to PirateFest?   You guessed it.  Blogs.  Facebook.  Twitter.  

 These blogs provide an insane amount of analysis and insight  and due to the efforts of Colin at PG+,  BucsDugout, Raise The Jolly Roger, WHYGAVSPirates Prospects, Pittsburgh Sports TavernPittsburgh Lumber Company,  Daveon79, KristyLovesHerBuccos, and all of the other outstanding blogs on our blogroll, the Pirates fans were able to get a look inside the team this weekend.

One of the other ways fans connected was with each other through Twitter.  We know we loved our Twitter feed this weekend as fans were posting pics, sharing quotes, and simply soaking up PiratesFest in all of its glory.

But imagine a concentrated effort by the Pirates to reach all of those fans with the content that exists at PirateFest but isnt captured in a medium that Pirates fans can enjoy how and when they want to enjoy it.  

There is one person who could begin to solve these lost opportunities for the Pirates. 

His name is Rocco DeMaro. 

It’s not more TV. It’s not more radio.  It’s certainly not print media (sorry Bob Nutting.)  It’s Rocco.   Why couldn’t the Pirates dominate new media as they did Latin America back in the day?

So the Pirates stated they need to do a better job of creating hype around their young prospects, let Rocco handle it.  The Pirates want to run their own radio podcast?  Let Rocco do it.  Hell, if the Bucs want to run their own radio site, let Rocco handle it.  The Pirates need to reach more young fans?  Let Rocco promote the Buccaroo Club.  In the couple hours we spent with him, kids were flocking to him.

The interaction with Rocco and the fanbase is so evident Rocco was embarassed when fans asked Frank Coonelly why they couldn’t utilize his talents.  Rocco has other irons in the fire and maybe he isn’t even interested in such a position, but it’s an opportunity that is ripe for the Pirates organization. 

(Social media will also become an area of enhanced revenue generation for the Pirates in the future.  Just google New York Jets social media if you want to see how far that team is taking their over one million impressions)

The hard thing for us to imagine, and I’m sure it is with the Pirates as well, is trying to imagine the growth of social media in the future.  We can’t.  It’s exploding beyond comprehension. 

We modified a slide from the video below to describes new media and the Pittsburgh Pirates. 

New media is not a fad.  By the actions of the Pittsburgh Pirates this weekend, it was damn evident they understand it and are attempting to be the leader for MLB.  It takes work, but the ball is rolling.  Buckle up Bucco fans this could get good.

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