MLB’s Francisco Lindor Talks Branding, Instagram and Bat Flips

The Cleveland Indians shortstop brings his mom into his social strategy

Francisco Lindor in the Cypher 12 "La Familia" cleats. Courtesy of New Balance
Headshot of Jameson Fleming

Baseball fans watching the MLB All-Star Game on Tuesday night saw a lot of two things: strikeouts and Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor.

Despite a hitless performance, Lindor made his presence felt off the field throughout the American League’s 4–3 win. He starred in ads and MLB promos during the broadcast, and Fox even put a mic on him for an in-game interview with announcers Joe Buck and John Smoltz.

The Puerto Rico-born player nicknamed Mr. Smile is quickly becoming one of the league’s most marketable personalities as brands like T-Mobile, Franklin, New Era, New Balance, SmileDirectClub and nonprofit Boys & Girls Clubs of America have made him the face of their campaigns.

Adweek sat down with Lindor to talk about his own branding strategy, Instagram and a little baseball.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Adweek: How would you describe your personal brand?
Francisco Lindor:
I’m all about happiness. I love when people are happy. I love when people are smiling. I love kids. I love fashion. So that’s what I try to base my brand off. That’s what Francisco Lindor is. So if we can combine all those things together, I truly believe the world will be a better place.

On Instagram, you’ve revealed custom cleats and hats from New Balance and New Era. How much of a say do you have in the design of the items?
I have a lot of say in it. I pretty much go from scratch when I come up with the colors, the logos, the signs; whatever we put in the cleats, I try to come up with it. And then along the way, I [tell] them what’s not in right now. … It’s a great collaboration. I love working with New Era and New Balance because they allow me to have the freedom of making my own things, but at the same time, they also help me. They’re the ones that are in it on a daily basis. They know what they’re talking about, so I’m taking their advice.

New Balance launched an All-Star Game election campaign.
New Balance

What’s the crown jewel of the products you’ve designed?
I like the [New Balance] Cypher 12 cleats. They might be one of the coolest things I have designed because it has a very meaningful message. It’s my dad’s favorite color, and it represents Puerto Rico. It represents my mom’s favorite color. It represents my favorite color. And I got a couple of hats coming out with New Era that will be more of my touch, my style and a Puerto Rico style.

You have one of the largest Instagram audiences in Major League Baseball, and you’re in the top 5% for engagement among players. What’s your Instagram strategy?
The Indians have always said whatever you’re going to post, make sure you can put it on a big billboard. I have a message. I have a way of how I’m going to relate to people and how I’m going to impact people, and there are certain things I don’t post because I want to impact kids. I want to impact grandparents. When a grandparent tells their kid, “I want your son to be like Francisco Lindor,” that means the world to me. And when a kid comes up to me and tells me, “Hey, I want to be just like you,” that impacts me a lot. That’s what I want to do. So the things I post have to be relevant to grandparents and the younger generation.

How do you ensure your posts resonate with those audiences?
I visualize myself posting something. I’m like, “How am going to say this?” I’ve talked to my friends, I talked to my agent, my mom. I’ll say, “Mom, you think I should say this?” And she’s like, “Yeah, but say it this way.” I always get input.

Going back to grandparents, older generations don’t love the younger players flipping their bats after big hits. What’s your message to older fans?
I don’t have any problems with flipping bats and showing a lot of emotion because I’m an emotional guy. I show emotions; I play the game with emotions. As long as you don’t look at that person. Like for example, you hit a home run, you throw the bat 10 feet, and then you look at the pitcher, now you’ve got a problem with the pitcher.

Francisco Lindor attends an event for SmileDirectClub in Cleveland.

But if you throw the bat and you look at your teammates and you celebrate with your teammates, that’s the moment. You grow up to be in those situations. … But if you look at somebody, now you’re showing somebody up because, the way I see it, that person is mad that they just gave up a home run. They’d lost the game, and you’re going to look at them and let them know, like, “I beat you.” Now that’s a little bit disrespectful, but humans have emotions.

To the older generation that played the game before me, I thank them because they set the path for me to be here. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today, but I thank them for everything they did and playing the game and how they played the game. … I respect them all, and I look up to a lot of them, and without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

What non-sports brands do you draw inspiration from?
Off-White, Amiri, Balenciaga, Richard Mille and Fear of God.

Finally, let’s have some fun. I’ll give you a brand mascot, and you tell me which of your teammates embodies that mascot.

Mr. Peanut:
Tyler Naquin.

Tony the Tiger:
Mike Clevinger or Roberto Perez.

Kool-Aid Man:
Carlos Santana or Jose Ramirez.

Energizer Bunny:
Leonys Martin.

Geico Gecko:
That’s definitely Naquin.