Mass Relevance Goes to Bat for MLB Network’s ‘Face of MLB’ Competition

Ask a few friends to name the Face of Major League Baseball, and the conversation may never end.  Derek Jeter. Joey Votto. Chase Utley.  The possibilities, not to mention the arguments for and against each player, are seemingly limitless.

Now, multiply that by a million.

Last offseason, MLB Network sought to engage baseball fans by asking that exact question during its offseason weekday morning show Hot Stove.  In order to handle the onslaught of Twitter votes from across the country, MLB Network turned to Mass Relevance.

“There’s always great social buzz and engagement from fans throughout the season, but then once the season is over, you don’t want fans to take off their baseball hat and go pick up another sport. You want them to continue to stay engaged,” says Matt Corey, CMO, Mass Relevance. “The world of social offers that opportunity.”

Face of MLB _ Mass Relevance copy

The Cincinnati Reds’ Joey Votto was named ‘Face of MLB’ in the bracket-style competition, powered by Mass Relevance.

MLB Network created a bracket-style tournament to determine the “Face of MLB,” with results for each head-to-head matchup voted on daily by fans through Twitter.  This was preceded by a similar “Face of the Franchise” tournament to select one player per team.  Those players were then seeded depending on how each team finished the 2012 season.

Mass Relevance provided MLB Network with the technology to access the Twitter’s real-time stream of tweets – also known as the Twitter firehose – and its API to create the graphical representation of data on screen.

“When you have access to the Twitter firehose, you can do things like voting, whereas if you don’t have access to the Twitter firehose and you don’t get every single tweet every day coming through a big fat pipe, you may get throttled,” explains Corey. “Having access to every thing allows anybody in the world to tweet to a hashtag or not a hashtag; you can capture so many different things on our platform: a phrase, a word, etc., and be able to recognize those ‘votes’ in this experience and tag them to an experience that allows for this bracket competition.”

Over the course of two months, MLB fans cast 1.6 million votes, including 693,000 total votes in the final round. Not only did the competition show which team’s fans were most active on Twitter (Votto, the Reds’ first baseman, beat out Jeter in the third round and the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp in the final round to win the title), but demonstrated the platform’s scalability and preparedness to handle heavy traffic.

“We’ve got very smart folks here who have built a platform that can scale to some of the biggest events in the world,” says Corey. “We’ve stress tested it for some of the highest-volume events in the world and the anticipation of growth going forward.”

From December 10, 2012, to March 1, 2013 (the length of the competition), the @MLBNetwork Twitter feed gained 45,896 followers for a total of 314,385. In addition to providing MLB Network with access to the Twitter firehose, Mass Relevance’s platform gives its clients the ability to filter out unwanted tweets in order to keep the experience relevant and appropriate.

“One of the things that a lot of sports teams and organizations are beginning to realize is that they want to enable the crowd, but they want to have a level of control,” explains Corey. “We can filter out certain things that we don’t want in this experience and still be very authentic, even if it’s just profanity, retweets, other [languages] if we’re here in the U.S., etc. and then we can bring the rest of that content to life and do it all in less than five seconds.”

Prior to the Face of MLB competition, which sough to engage social traffic through the linear broadcast, Mass Relevance worked with the network on the MLB 140 Club.  The Web-based news source allows MLB’s social media team to curate tweets in real time, reflecting the top news of the day (for example, Wednesday was dominated by MLB’s All-Star Final Vote campaigning) while also enabling fans to follow their favorite players and teams.