Baby Birds ‘Are Comin’ to Play’

Even though a Baltimore fan’s fancy turns to baseball each spring, the question facing Trahan, Burden & Charles chief creative officer Allan Charles was how to market a faceless team with a sub-.500 winning percentage.

Charles’ answer is summed up in the tagline for the Baltimore shop’s giddy new round of television commercials: “The kids are comin’ to play!”

The spots—”Shaving,” “Sprink-ler,” “Bread Crumbs,” “Tractor,” “Bobblehead” among them—show Orioles’ second-baseman Jerry Hairston, outfielder Louis Matos and other team members, not as sluggers, Golden Glovers or fireballers, but likeable, innocent and, well, goofy kids.

“These players understand that marketing is part of the 360-degree picture of a professional team,” said Charles, who wrote and directed the campaign.

In the spots, Orioles manager Mike Hargrove is portrayed as patient parent rather than coach, watching and waiting as the boys douse themselves under sprinklers, discover the joys of shaving and carom around the infield on a tractor.

In “Crab Lessons,” they pound, gouge and crack their way through a tableful of steamed crabs. “Can you eat the eyeballs?” is typical of the offbeat repartee.

“The guys were great,” said Charles. “They did stuff the older players would never have done.”

The ads, which break this week, will run on cable and broadcast in Washington, D.C., Maryland, Dela-ware, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Print, direct, interactive and outdoor components (a billboard— “Fresh season. Coming soon”—is in place in Baltimore) will roll out over the next months.

“You have a team … going through a transition,” said Charles, whose shop has handled the Birds’ marketing for a decade. “Baltimorians have traditionally been big supporters of the underdog. Hopefully, they’ll want to see the next guy do well.”

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