'MLB Always Epic' marketing campaign unveiled

'MLB Always Epic' marketing campaign unveiled

'MLB Always Epic' marketing campaign unveiled
Homer's "Iliad" and "Odyssey" were epic.

Homers by Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton are epic, too.

As the 2011 Major League Baseball season got under way, there really is one word that best describes the daily drumbeat of the national pastime. It's the epic beard of Brian Wilson, with all those ninjas, gypsies and dancing leprechauns who live inside it. It's the epic name "Ubaldo." It's the epic arm of Felix Hernandez that was good for the last American League Cy Young Award and a stack of stuffed animals at the Milk Jug Toss.

Coinciding with Opening Day, MLB launched a new marketing campaign Thursday titled "MLB Always Epic." The heavily Web-based and unconventional campaign, created by MLB's new marketing and agency of record Hill Holliday, will showcase the compelling personalities of MLB's cast of star players, as well as other "epic" characteristics of the game.

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This marks a significant departure from previous MLB advertising, which has traditionally been footage-based with a more linear storytelling approach.

"Our strategic and creative approach for 'MLB Always Epic' is to highlight the truly epic nature of MLB -- its story lines, plot twists and the sprawling cast of star players," said Tim Brosnan, MLB executive vice president, business. "Using every media channel and asset available, we will create a steady stream of sharable content based on new and existing assets that we believe will ultimately inspire more fan participation that ever before."

The creative content will be geared for consumption online, with some spots taken to television. The digital features will be housed on MLBAlwaysEpic.com and related microsites and will be distributed and shared through social media. All of the sites are powered by MLB.com.

"Modern marketing for an iconic brand like MLB demands a fresh, innovative approach," said Karen Kaplan, president of Hill Holliday. "With 'MLB Always Epic' we've created a platform, a new way of thinking about baseball. This campaign is more about content than advertising -- and nobody has more exciting, sharable content than Major League Baseball. It's a huge credit to Tim and his team that they were willing to embrace such a new direction for their marketing."

The campaign, which will feature more than 30 players, will run throughout the season. The first wave of online and TV executions feature three star pitchers:

Wilson: The Giants' eccentric All-Star closer, who opened the season on the disabled list, threw the last pitch of 2010. He has become as famous for his wild jet-black beard as for his 48 saves that topped the Majors last year. Wilson's iconic facial hair and offbeat personality star in a mini-campaign that goes "Inside The Beard." The content takes fans on a fanciful journey through the world that exists inside the closer's forbidding beard, leading to a variety of unusual scenarios that coincide with Wilson's fondness for ninjas and the obscure. There will be at least a dozen online and three TV pieces featuring Wilson and the activity in his beard.

Hernandez: One of baseball's young superstars, the 24-year-old King Felix stars in a spot that takes place at a county fair. He has a dollar and has no problem knocking down those confounding milk jugs with baseballs. As Hernandez starts racking up prizes, he puts the booth out of business, kind of the way he treated AL batters last season for the Mariners.

Ubaldo Jimenez: In another spot taking place away from the field, Jimenez tries to find his name on a display of personalized license plates at a roadside tchotchke store. Indeed, there is only one Ubaldo in The Show. He dominated in the first half of the 2010 season, starting the wave of no-hitters, winning 11 of his first 12 starts and allowing fewer than one run per nine innings. Jimenez was the starting pitcher for the National League as it finally ended the AL hex at the 81st All-Star Game.

Along with a strong online and social media presence, the work will also run on MLB's network partners FOX, ESPN and TBS, as well as on MLB Network and MLB.com. Flash banners will drive users to the MLBAlwaysEpic.com site.

Previous MLB ad campaigns have included such themes as "Beyond Baseball" over the past two years and "I Live For This" from 2003-05.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.