How Nike Can Capitalize on Rob Manfred’s Comments on Mike Trout

The 89th edition of the midsummer classic was almost derailed by rains earlier in the afternoon…but the game itself almost was overshadowed by MLB Commissioner, Rob Manfred’s comments about perhaps the game’s best player; Mike Trout.

“Mike has made decisions on what he wants to do, doesn’t want to do, how he wants to spend his free time or not spend his free time. I think we could help him make his brand very big…

But he has to make a decision to engage. It takes time and effort,” Rob Manfred, MLB Commissioner

It is difficult to understand how the game’s best player…a stud outfielder, seven-time All-Star, two-time All-Star Game MVP and two-time American League MVP all before the tender age of 27 is the subject of popularity and marketability talks. Or perhaps the lack there of in regards to the latter. For those who watch Los Angeles Angels baseball…or are fans of the sport in general, Trout is one of the most dynamic players of the modern day; his smile is infectious and plays the game with a fervor that is child-like. He possess all the tools and is on pace to shatter records the game holds most dear. And has finished either first or second in American League MVP voting each year between 2012-2016. In a sense, he is the modern day Ken Griffey, Jr.

And just like “Junior Griffey” before him, Trout himself is signed to the Swoosh. Manfred continued Tuesday on Trout’s marketability:

“Player marketing requires one thing for sure — the player.

You cannot market a player passively. You can’t market anything passively. You need people to engage with those to whom you are trying to market in order to have effective marketing. We are very interested in having our players more engaged and having higher-profile players and helping our players develop their individual brand. But that involves the player being actively engaged.”

In the defense of Manfred, the commissioner does have a point…player marketing does require the player, and it requires the player to be actively engaged. There is a stark difference between popularity and marketability. Marketability is the capitalization on one’s popularity for substantial gain. In the case of Major League Baseball that means more eyes on the game and uptick in attendance…in the case of Nike that means more pushing of product; sales…revenue. The latter both would like to share.

Nike has made Trout the face of its baseball division however, the brand is not as forward as it once was. When you think Nike Baseball, you think Griffey, you think Bo Jackson…and despite having the presence, the brand between the Swoosh and Jordan have yet to elevate a baseball superstar with its marketing since Griffey. Albeit Griffey was a once-in-a-generation talent, but so is Mike Trout; who recently completed a feat that only happened one other time in the history of the game. Let that sink in. Anaheim is not the “sexiest” location, but it is sunny, beautiful California…and the Swoosh has the means to further propel Trout’s clout and mystique. Is it as simple as it appears on wax…no. Marketing and branding strategies are formed on paper but by no means executed solely on paper. Perhaps it is worth venturing into a new campaign with Trout as the focus. Similar to Griffey in ’96.

Step 1: Enhance the Mystique

Trout carries a mystique about him that is otherworldly. Think of the athletes you’ve seen in your lifetime and you have had the fortune of seeing this athlete’s first game and follow his/her career until the end…and you know that person is a generational player. Personally, there is Kobe Bryant and upon his retirement, LeBron James. Odell Beckham, Jr. would fall into the class for me as well. Athletes that in some capacity will change how the game is received, played, perceived and revolutionize his/her position. So with that special cloud around that particular athlete it is worth enhancing the mystique. It is the same principle that made people believe Jordan could actually fly. Enhance Trout’s mystique.

Step 2: Showcase the Team Around Trout

There is an old adage; “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”…in other words, the team is greater than the individuals that comprise the team. Anthony Rizzo, Corey Seager, Adam Jones, George Springer…each are perennial All-Stars and two boast World Series championships, in Rizzo and Springer. With the exception of Jones who is over 10 years in the majors, the remaining four mentioned (including Trout), are young and the next generation of the game that will reel in the generations to follow. Showcasing the “starting nine” of Nike Baseball with Trout front-and-center equals the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.

Step 3: Just Do It.

Simple. Trout is undoubtedly the best player in the game today and Nike has always found a way to take “bulletin board material” and make it a memorable campaign. This would lend itself to the perfect situation. And with Nike poised to take over the MLB outfitting duties in 2020, it could be a launching point.