MLB Drives Monumental Audience Shifts During Opening Weekend

Cover Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Baseball season is back! This past weekend, MLB opened up the 2022 Season with a small slate of games Thursday with the rest of the league starting their seasons Friday. Fans have been desperately waiting for the start of this season after the offseason lockout postponed the start of the season by about a week.

This weekend, we analyzed the audience shifts when comparing the Twitter engagers of the MLB Opening Weekend from this weekend and last season’s Opening Weekend. How we analyzed this was by collecting Tweets from Twitter users either mentioning @MLB, any of the 30 teams and/or the official team hashtags, or using any mentions of Opening Day, such as #OpeningDay or the words “Opening Day” together in a Tweet.

Growth in Youth Demographic

Over the past several years, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has been looking for ways to grow the popularity of baseball among the younger generations, through means such as rule changes to shorten the time of games, the MLB pushing the MLB-based video game “MLB The Show” to Xbox and Nintendo Switch (which we will get to later on), and more.

While it’s been a slow and steady work for the league, our data shows that this movement is working for the MLB. According to our audience analytics database, the total Millennial & Gen-Z make-up for 2022 Opening Weekend was 66.60%, a 10.26% growth compared to last year’s 60.40% make-up. While this growth seems rather minuscule, movement in age groups is not often this drastic in our audience comparisons unless an organization is actively targeting a change and it’s effective, and it seems the MLB is doing just that.

Increase in Japan Audience

The Ohtani-effect is REAL! Japan native, Los Angeles Angels Pitcher/DH and reigning-MVP Shohei Ohtani seems to be making movements of his own. Last year on Opening Weekend, we saw that 1.4% of all social engagers were based in Japan. Then came Ohtani's MVP season.

Ohtani was the highlight of last year, becoming a star two-way player, making his 1st career All-Star Game, winning the league MVP award, and was so impressive that he was named AP Athlete of the Year. Well, what effect did this have on baseball? This year, we saw the percentage of Japan social engagers jump up to 1.9%, representing a 35.7% growth. And we are looking to see this number continue to grow as Ohtani has a new slugging partner in the MLB now, Chicago Cubs Outfielder Seiya Suzuki, who made his MLB debut this weekend and on Sunday hit his 1st career home run.

Gaming Boom Among MLB Fans

We told you we would get to this later on. Much like Madden is the video game staple for the NFL, the MLB has MLB The Show. The long-produced game by Sony-owned San Diego Studios made its debut outside of PlayStation last year, being made available for the first time ever on Xbox. The game itself saw a huge growth among Xbox users as the first authentic-style baseball game on the platform in years besides R.B.I. Baseball, an arcade-style game. The game was so successful in its growth that in 2022 San Diego Studios developed the game for Nintendo Switch.

Not only did San Diego Studios benefit from all this growth, but so did MLB. Comparing year-over-year Opening Weekend audience, fans represent a 19.03% increase in overall gaming, largely attributed directly to MLB The Show, which saw an affinity growth of its own of 53%.

Continued Success of Sports Betting

Ever since the legalization of sports betting by state started a couple of years ago, there has been numerous success stories of fan interest growing across all major sports leagues. Our data continues to back this claim.

During the 2021 MLB Opening Weekend, 8.6% of social users collected and analyzed by Zoomph showed an affinity for sports betting & gambling. Fast forward to the 2022 MLB Opening Weekend and that number is in the double digits at 10.3%, representing a 19.77% growth in interest. As more states begin to allow legal sports betting and teams such as the Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs sign betting partnerships and connect sportsbooks to their stadiums, this number should continue to rise and be a major partnership opportunity for clubs.