As the coronavirus pandemic began taking the sports world by storm, San Diego Padres Chief Marketing Officer Wayne Partello was wondering what this meant for his team.
“With the changes that were ahead of us, it was this, ‘okay, now what do we do?’” Partellos said. “How do we do our job? How do we engage? We were missing some games here at the beginning of the season, so what do we do?”
One of the answers to Partello’s questions has come through the return of one of the Padres’ old content series, Padres Social Hour. Initially launching in August 2014, the show is a club-produced, hour-long multimedia pregame show where fans were encouraged to use social media to interact with host Jesse Agler and his various cohosts.
But while the team released episodes relatively frequently early on, the Padres put it on hiatus following the 2016 season, according to Dennis Lin. At the same time, the team also signed a new radio partnership with Entercom.
When asked about the decision to shelf Padres Social Hour, Partello said that, “we made the decision to shift resources to other areas of our marketing team.”
However, days after MLB officially pushed back Opening Day from starting on March 12, Partello reached out to Agler about the possibility of bringing back the show.
“He laughed, and he said Nicki Patriarca, who’s our director of content, already called me, and we had the same idea,” Partello said. “And I was like, ‘well, I wanted to make sure you were into it before I started working on it.’ And then the three of us chatted, and we spent the next weekend trying to figure out how we can do it well without having people leave their homes.”
As everyone continues to work remotely, Partello built a make-shift studio in his house to record Padres Social Hour. He and his team are using Streamyard, which specializes in creating professional live streams, in producing the show. Once each person is logged into their computer or cellphone, Partello can bring them into the software, which then sends a simultaneous multi-stream to Facebook and Twitter.
After a nearly nine-month break between episodes, Padres Social Hour made its return on March 20. Four days later, it celebrated its first full week, with episodes Monday through Thursday airing on Facebook Live, Twitter, YouTube Live, and the team website.
During the week of March 23 to 26, Padres Social Hour saw more than 103,000 views across all of its streaming platforms. Through April 8, it has also generated more than 41,540 replays on the team’s website. Notable episodes have seen people like Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic and Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. appear on the show.
“When we looked at doing this, obviously we wanted to be sensitive to all that’s going on in the world,” Partello said. “We didn’t want to appear to not be listening, but what we were actually doing was listening, and we were hearing from our fans, especially our hardcore fans, the disappointment of not being able to get together.”
“When you do a project like this, and you pour everything in to try to make it happen quickly, it’s all about your fans.”
With the possibility of Opening Day coming as soon as May, whether or not that happens has no bearing on the Padres’ content strategy, Partello said. “I joke all the time with my team that the best work we do is the work we never use,” he added. “I’d rather have a plan and have to scrap it than to be scrambling for a plan.”
As of right now, the Padres don’t preload any of their content, enabling them to adjust on the fly, Partello said. When asked if San Diego would make similar investments in around video games like the MLB The Show like the Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies have, he noted that it makes sense given developer SIE San Diego Studio’s close proximity to the team, but that nothing definitive has been determined yet.
Instead, the plan remains the same: create content that the fans can enjoy while they await the return of baseball.
“Every day is a challenge to figure out what we can come up with next and empower our team to come up with solutions and to provide value,” Partello said. “If you can come up with something that drives value for our fans, I think that’s a really powerful thing, so we’re open to all ideas – it’s just going to come down to what’s right, given the climate that we’re in, and what’s appropriate for our fans.”