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MLB CMO Karin Timpone Talks Engaging Younger Fans, Metaverse

  • Timpone drills down on how to reach new and casual fans in her first year as MLB’s executive VP, CMO.
  • She tells FOS that there's plenty of "experimentation" underway to reach fans via Web3, metaverse.
Gary Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports

Karin Timpone hasn’t been in her role as an MLB executive for a year, but she could have the answer to make the oldest fanbase among the four major sports a bit younger. 

Timpone, MLB’s executive VP and chief marketing officer, said on “The C-Suite” hosted by Front Office Sports’ Chief Content Officer Lisa Granatstein that those younger fans are out there.

The challenge is getting them more engaged.

“We’ve partnered across the organization on segmentation to help us understand…where can we find growth?”said Timpone, who began at MLB last August. “We’re just at the earliest stages of activating all of that, but I can say that we’ll both continue to super-serve the avid fan while also bringing that casual fan a little further into the mix.”

For Timpone, marketing a game that skews older is just the latest challenge. She spearheaded the creation of the Marriott Bonvoy awards program that tripled in size while she was the hotel chain’s global marketing officer.

Timpone was a senior VP for The Walt Disney Company and helped guide its digital media push before her role at Marriott. She was also the head of marketing and consumer/customer innovation at Yahoo Media Group, a senior VP at Universal Studios, and an exec at Seagram’s. 

“In the past, I’ve started with a very quantitative view around what behaviors drive the most interest,” Timpone said. “I always started with a behavioral segmentation. It’s almost like the math side of it — the largest addressable market you can get. And what are the behaviors behind these fans?

“The second step is to wrap and package the right story, the right brand, the right message.”

There were a few of those packages as part of MLB All-Star Game festivities in Southern California earlier this month that Timpone oversaw, which included a baseball diamond on the sand next to the Santa Monica Pier. There were also 57 MLB players who posted content from the Player Social Program, where players are provided photos and video from MLB. 

Timpone said her personal highlight was at MLB’s Compton Youth Academy, opened in 2006 in a bid to revive the game in urban areas. The league has opened seven other academies. 

“I was just blown away by the energy of the kids, both softball and baseball [players],” Timpone said. 

Some of the focus a day after the American League’s ninth consecutive victory was on the TV numbers. The Fox broadcast was the least-watched Midsummer Classic on record, although it remains the most-watched All-Star game among the four major sports. 

MLB’s videos had 74 million views across Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook for the All-Star Game, Home Run Derby, and Celebrity Softball Game. 

“What we’re doing, as many entertainment and sports entities are, is really expanding the message across all the platforms that are available to fans today,” Timpone said. “I feel really strongly that the combination of having a live experience in L.A., a great experience that you could watch on television, but then also expanding into new areas of gaming and social media.”

In between Marriott and taking her current role, Timpone studied fintech at Harvard University and blockchain at the MIT Sloan School of Management. She said research on how MLB can utiize Web3  and how people will interact on the metaverse is already underway. 

“There’s a lot of experimentation happening in the metaverse,” Timpone said. “You know, it’s funny. There are some groups here working on a lot of things for way, way, predating me.

“There’s a whole host of things. I think that it’s a very exciting time of experimentation. I personally feel like it’s really, really, really early innings, to use a pun that’s very appropriate to us.”

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