CaravanOn March 28th, the 2012 Major League Baseball regular season will officially begin. Thousands of fans will pack their cars to drive to their respective stadiums and catch a game in person, while millions of others will follow the action on television, radio, or internet.

However, how can these fans occupy themselves before the first pitch is tossed? What are MLB teams doing to keep their fans engaged and excited during the preceding off-season?

Most teams employ blog posts, email campaigns, and social media contests and programs to keep fans engaged throughout the off-season – in today’s world, such engagement is considered standard

Some teams take it a step further by hosting fan/team conventions. One such club, the Chicago Cubs, held their convention January 13th-15th. For $60, a fan received a three-day pass, which provided access to all exhibits, including autograph signings, photo sessions, Q&A panels, and much more. ^

Similarly, the Texas Rangers held an event called “Fan Fest”. Fan Fest attendees were able to purchase a three-day pass or individual day pass in order to gain access to autograph sessions, panels, and numerous booths and exhibits.  In addition, the Rangers made interactive displays such as batting cages, team photo opportunities, and ‘Home Run Derby’ and ‘Steal Home’ challenges available to attendees.^^

Many other teams followed routes similar to those chosen by the Cubs and Rangers; however, two clubs – the Boston Red Sox and Kansas City Royals – went above and beyond.

The 2012 Red Sox Road Trip (presented by Coca-Cola) traveled throughout New England during the weekend of January 20th, stopping at all six of the region’s states.  Each stop featured player and alumni appearances, as well as the ability for fans to take their photo next to the 2004 and 2007 World Series trophies. The Sox also hosted their “Sing Your Way to Fenway” contest, where one lucky fan from each state won the opportunity to sing the National Anthem at a future Red Sox game. ^^^

Similarly, the Kansas City Royals spent their winter executing the annual “Royals Caravan”, presented by Fox Sports Kansas City. This road trip, a Royals tradition since 1968, marks the official launch of the Royals baseball season. During the caravan, current and former players, the team’s mascot Slugger, and front office staff visit communities throughout the Midwest, stopping at schools and shopping centers and visiting military members in fourteen different cities. ^^^^

Through these programs, the Red Sox and Royals demonstrated their commitment to engag­ing fans throughout the year. In today’s crowded entertainment landscape, it is crit­i­cal for teams to keep their fan bases engaged for the long haul, and encour­age new fans to become part of the fam­ily. Both these teams recognize that their fan bases are geographically spread over hundreds of miles, and literally drove the extra mile to show their fans how much they appreciate them and make a meaningful connection.