Why Professional Baseball Players Should Have Personal Websites - With Ten Examples
The following sports marketing question crossed my mind last week: How many professional baseball players, particularly active Major League Baseball players, have personal websites? So, I did some digging, and here is the answer: Not very many.
The first thing I noticed while doing my digging is that I am not at all the first person to think about this issue. However, most people who have given thought to this issue have mainly focused on the personal sites of well-known superstars like LeBron James.
Honestly, I did not see a single mention of a professional baseball player anywhere I looked; although that should not be surprising to hear, given the common refrain of - "Major League Baseball and its players don't market themselves well enough."
Well, instead of following along with that popular (and negative) theme, I want to focus on the positives and spotlight some active players who have great personal websites, or at least the initial building blocks of one, that can evolve.
Early on in 2020, I decided to further my own digital presence with the website you are on right now: zackraab.com. So, taking what I learned from the process of creating my own website from scratch, and the benefits I have seen from having one for nearly a year now, I decided to dive in and provide a “How To” for any athlete looking to dip their toes into the world of personal website building, as well as provide analysis of some active ballplayers' websites.
Ten Benefits of Having a Personal Website
1. Stop relying on social media algorithms.
Just about every modern athlete has some combination of Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitch, TikTok, or Snapchat accounts. All of those social platforms have value and importance in the present day, but there are new ones still to come, and some of those aforementioned platforms will eventually disappear. They also all have one big thing in common - complex algorithms that decide how often and in what order you and your content appear for the general public to consume. Not to mention, everyone's profiles basically look and feel the same, too. So, aside from some back-end optimization to rank highly on search engines (SEO), you do not have to worry about this as much with a personal website.
2. Share your journey and interests in your own words.
So much is written about athletes, often positive and unfortunately sometimes negative. On a personal website, you control the words that appear and you control how you want fans to connect with your unique journey and individual interests.
3. Design it according to your personality.
One athlete may be hilarious, and another may be a bit more low-key. One may love a minimalistic or black and white style, while another may love extravagant fonts and a myriad of colors. With easy access to website management platforms such as Wix, Squarespace, or WordPress, and the uniqueness of every player, no two websites will look or feel the same - the design is completely up to each individual!
4. Offer a selection of unique merchandise.
Even while abiding by licensing rules, there are still all kinds of ways to offer fans unique merchandise that they cannot find anywhere else - from charitable causes to memorable press conference quotes, or even something as simple as a t-shirt with the athlete's personal brand logo. Monetizing a brand is not necessarily a quick money grab, rather it is a way to promote brand awareness and build brand loyalty.
5. Centralize your charitable initiatives.
Speaking of charitable causes, many athletes have their own foundation or causes they choose to support as their platform grows. However, maybe fans do not know how to find the foundation or those causes because they are scattered throughout social media or the Internet. A personal website is the perfect centralized and supplementary location for all of those things, and it is especially beneficial for an athlete who is involved with more than one charitable cause.
6. Organically promote products you use or brands you support.
Every athlete has products they naturally love to use or brands they partner with, whether big or small. Imagine having another completely organic spot to offer brands or products exposure when they are considering partnering with you. And of course, the athlete can choose how prominently or not to feature something like this - but its presence will be evergreen, likely feel more organic than a sponsored social media post, and not be at the mercy of a social media algorithm.
7. Write a blog or feature visuals.
Maybe you love writing, long-form or short-form. Perhaps photography or videography is an off-field hobby. Or maybe you have received some fantastic fan-created artwork over the years that you would love to share, and want to promote or thank the artist. A personal website gives you a place to share any or all content that you find interesting!
8. Share highlights and on-field achievements.
You are a professional athlete! That is how the people visiting your website likely found you and your site in the first place. Consider including highlights of your greatest plays, your career stats, any awards you have won along the way, or anything else having to do with your on-field life and accomplishments.
9. Connect with your fans.
Come up with a unique way to involve your fans and the people who are taking the time to visit your website and likely follow you on social media, too. It can be an occasional text-based Q&A, a live stream hosted on the site (in case people do not have a specific social media account), or an occasional fan-submission contest of some sort! This is honestly the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fan engagement ideas originating from an athlete's site instead of on social media.
10. Build an email newsletter list.
It may not be the most useful tool right off the bat (pun fully intended), but you never know when it will come in handy, so the best time to start collecting is as soon as the site is launched. All you need is a simple confirmation/welcome email to start so that people can at least feel like they are a part of your personalized "fan base." Eventually, you may want to tap into that newsletter list of interested fans (possibly once per month) with a new podcast or YouTube release, new merchandise, an exciting charitable initiative, and so much more!
Ten Examples from Active MLB Players
1. Trevor Bauer
In my opinion, and the opinion of many others in the industry, Trevor is the current gold standard for marketing and personal branding among active Major League Baseball players. I am only going to focus on his personal brand now, but that is not even touching the surface with his growing media company, Momentum, doing the work it is doing to market the game of baseball.
Trevor's site has a little bit of everything on it, so if you're looking for a starting point for inspiration, I would highly recommend checking out his site. Aside from establishing his personal brand (Bauer Outage) and unique logo, there is an original shop, a short "About" section, an emphasis on his charity work, a collection of original content, fun ways he engages with the fan, and a newsletter signup option.
Check out his site: trevorbauer.com.
2. Marcus Stroman
Marcus's site is very similar to Trevor's, minus a few aspects like original content and a newsletter signup option. It is also a great example of not necessarily needing to use your name as the URL, provided people will know how to easily find your site.
Marcus's merchandise savviness, with his Height Doesn't Measure Heart or HDMH brand, has always been something that has totally impressed me. That along with his newly-founded HDMH foundation is rightfully the primary focus of his website, one that is very welcoming with the first thing you see upon arrival to his site.
Check out his site: stroshow.com.
3. Tim Anderson
Tim Anderson burst onto the baseball marketing scene in early 2019 with his epic bat throw that set the game on fire (in a great way, in my opinion) for a few days. The way he went from a lesser-known Chicago White Sox player to a strong voice for the sport overall has been supplemented, if not accelerated, by his sleek and consistent personal branding.
Similar to Stroman, Anderson's site name is that of his brand, TA7, and he puts the main focus on his community work, along with a small shop, a bit about himself, and some photos that show off his personality.
Check out his site: ta-seven.com.
4. Alex Bregman
I remember Alex was one of the first baseball players I saw who capitalized on creating a YouTube channel with original content. But I am equally impressed with how he has supplemented that with his name-branded personal website to host all the interesting and original content endeavors he has undertaken recently.
This website is unlike the first three I described above, in the fact that its main focus is content - Alex's original video content, his own podcast, and his unique Swing Review program for young baseball players under 17 years old. Additionally, when signing up for his newsletter, you can select what you would like to hear more about in the future (general, podcast, or shop updates) - a solid addition to any website with a diverse selection of content.
Check out his site: alexbregman.com.
5. Yasiel Puig
Yasiel Puig is a baseball player that would definitely fall under the category of charismatic, outgoing, and sometimes misunderstood. The best way to amplify his unique personality and to help direct the public's understanding of who he is as a person: have his own website:
Included on his site are a solid ‘About’ section, a description of his Wild Horse Children's Foundation, and a page for his annual Poker Tournament. What was most intriguing and impressive to me about Puig's site is that it is solely in English. This is a fantastic example of an easy way for a Latin American ballplayer (or any non-English-speaking player) to help bridge the gap between him and his strong English-speaking MLB fan base.
Check out his site: yasielpuig.co.
6. Blake Snell
Unlike the first five examples, Blake Snell's website is focused primarily on his passion for gaming as well as where fans can find him on social media. There is also a pretty solid selection of merchandise for his baseball or gaming fans alike.
Here is what makes this website cool and effective: it is not a cookie-cutter site that follows every best practice or even accomplishes everything I listed earlier in this post, but it acts as a centralized location for any baseball fan or gaming fan who follows Blake - the perfect kind of a website for someone like him.
Check out his site: snellzilla.com.
7. Trevor May
Similar to how Snell capitalized on his "Snellzilla" nickname above, Trevor May has also seamlessly transformed his online "IamTrevorMay" persona into a website to host his gaming endeavors, along with some of his other original content efforts. He has a place to host his two podcasts (one baseball-related and one gaming-related) and has a selection of merchandise for his huge gaming fan base to enjoy as well.
You don't need to be a superstar on the field to benefit from having a personal website. Trevor May is a relief pitcher who spent the first six years of his career pitching in small-market Minnesota with the Twins, and he clearly proves that point.
Check out his site: iamtrevormay.com.
8. Joe Kelly
Welcome to another example of a relief pitcher with a common name who has still managed to build a brand for himself and successfully extend it off the field with his own website. While he does not have his own personal logo gracing the top of his site, Kelly opens up the doors for his fans to learn more about him with an impressively thorough 'About' section spanning his whole life and career.
He is also the first player I have seen host a blog on his website. And while he does not appear to write the posts himself (they are written by a baseball blogger/editor), the unique content is about him and his experiences so it is perfectly relevant and interesting for anyone visiting his site.
Check out his site: josephkellyjr.com.
9. Kiké Hernandez
Here is a unique site that is very different than the first eight above. As you can see in the URL itself (below), Kiké's website has one purpose: a place for his fans and supporters to buy merchandise that is not offered anywhere else. Keep in mind, Kiké has just about always been a utility man, not a superstar.
While the URL itself is not the most appealing, it at least supports Hernandez's digital presence and gives him the opportunity to create an additional income stream for himself and share his extremely fun personality through the world of merchandise - with a very wide variety of it, too.
Check out his site: kikehndezshop.com.
10. Edwin Encarnacion
And finally, another example of a shop-only site, one that is even more basic than Hernandez's. But it does the job. It gives fans - young, old, man, or woman - a place to shop and then represent a player they love supporting with some creatively designed t-shirts. And as with all the previous examples, his site also directs fans to follow him on social media if they are not already.
Check out his site: edwinencarnacionshop.com.
There you go! Ten benefits and ten examples that have hopefully shed some more light for you on the topic of personal websites for athletes, as they have for me.
Just as having an active and engaging social media presence has proven to have many benefits for athletes over the past few years, this too is an additional digital marketing medium that continues to develop within the baseball industry and, as it does, continue to benefit both the popularity of players themselves and the marketability of the game of baseball as a whole.
I am not a professional athlete, nor will I ever be one, but even I have seen firsthand the many benefits that come from having a personal website. I would argue that the pros of having a website go tenfold for a professional athlete who understands the value of sharing his or her interests and interacting with fans worldwide.
As a professional athlete, you do not need to be a superstar or have the biggest and most outgoing personality to have a website. All that is needed is a one-stop location to host whatever you wish to include, and you set the rules with your tone and style.
The best part about it: it can evolve as a career progresses and even after a career concludes. It will be yours forever, unlike a social media profile that may one day lose relevance, and there is no limit to what you can include!
There is a lot of amazing sports marketing-related content out there for you to enjoy right now, so thank you for dedicating some of your valuable time to read my post!
I am sure there are some other great examples that I missed. So, if there is a notable one I did not include, please send it my way because I would love to check it out.
If you found this post to be interesting and it got you thinking as well, feel free to share it on social media or send it directly to your friends or coworkers! And of course, make sure you are connected with me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter for some more sports and digital marketing observations (fair warning - it is usually baseball-related)!