If there’s one team in professional sports that doesn’t have to bother promoting itself, it’s the New York Yankees. The 114-year-old club is the best known in baseball. Fame can cut both ways, of course, as recent polls have crowned the Yankees as both America’s favorite team and its most hated, the latter presumably because of the team’s legendarily deep pockets. But whichever side of the divide you stand on, it’s a given that the boys in pinstripes need no help being recognized.
That truism furnishes the absurdist context in a new spot for web-development company Wix, which sees several members of the team making rather desperate pleas for recognition. The minute-long video, the latest product of a 2-year-old partnership between the Yankees and the Tel Aviv-based tech company, makes its web debut today.
The spot kicks off with manager Joe Girardi running into Didi Gregorius, who’s busy building his own fan site (using Wix, naturally). Girardi gently admonishes his shortstop, pointing out that it’s fans, not players, who build such sites. “It’d be really weird if we did our own promotions,” Girardi tells Gregorius.
That’s the setup for 50 ensuing seconds of the Yankees shown in a way few are used to seeing them, desperate for attention. Pitcher Dellin Betances hands out hand-lettered signs for fans to hold up (including one that says “Marry Me, Dellin”). Third baseman Chase Headley coaxes a row of fans to don T-shirts that spell out his name. And retired right fielder Paul O’Neill, broadcasting from the booth, gives a shoutout to … himself.
The spot, which Wix created in house, doesn’t have much of a resolution, apart from Gregorius finally showing Girardi how to use Wix. But the message is obvious: Wix’s site-building tools are so easy anyone can use them. And besides, when you’re working with a team this famous, nobody’s likely to be worried about the mechanics of plot very much. Wix CMO Omer Shai said he’s “very, very happy” with this work from the Yankees. “[We’re] working with, I think, one of the best organizations in terms of the way they think about partners and how the partners will gain,” he said.
Athlete endorsements have a long history in the advertising world, and some of the most memorable pitchmen have hailed from the New York Yankees. In the mid-1970s, Joe DiMaggio became the face of Mr. Coffee, and Mickey Mantle sang the praises of Anheuser-Busch’s Natural Light beer. Reggie Jackson launched his own candy bar called Reggie. And more recently, Derek Jeter played a salesman in a Ford showroom, while Mariano Rivera and Girardi showed up at a Taco Bell for the purposes of procuring an XXL Chalupa.
Spots like these seem to alternate between funny and excruciating, depending on the players’ ability to read lines and act. And in this regard, the Yankees seem to have learned some new plays in recent years.
“There are some players who can act and play the scenes that others can’t,” Shai said, adding that the team representative he worked with made sure Wix got set up with players who could ham it up and “fulfill what you want to achieve.”
Lately, much of what Wix has sought to achieve in terms of marketing has taken place with sports teams. The brand has standing partnerships not only with the Yankees, but also with the City Football Group (including Manchester City and Melbourne City.) Wix has also produced Super Bowl ads for the past three years, including a spot this year featuring Gal Gadot and Jason Statham. Last year, Wix launched its #BiggestYankeesFan contest, which invited people to make videos about how much they loved the team. (Most memorable was a fan named Sam Corbin, who managed to cram 50 terrible Yankees puns into a two-minute homemade video.)
Yet hovering behind these efforts is this question: What exactly does a cloud-based web-development platform have to do with professional sports? Shai pointed out that Wix has invested in some nonsports spots of late (such as a zero-gravity photo shoot with an aspiring fashion photographer in Japan). Apart from that, he said, “people really like the players”—meaning that sports in general, and the Yankees in particular, remains an efficient way to reach huge swaths of the consuming public.
“If you have the budget and you can find the right elite brand to partner with it, it becomes a pebble in a pond,” observed Joe Favorito, a veteran sports business consultant and professor at Columbia University. “A brand like the Yankees appeals to a much bigger audience than New York—you’re playing on an international level,” he said, adding that the team also “reaches well beyond sports.”
It also doesn’t hurt that the Yankees put forward a mix of players who are diverse in terms of both race and age, Favorito pointed out. In addition to O’Neill, who is 54, there’s a cameo from 65-year-old Bucky Dent, who is still remembered for his home run in the 1978 AL East tie-breaker game against the Boston Red Sox.
But, Favorito added,“The big question is, outside of that spot, can these athletes deliver on the social side? If you’re going for the brass ring and spending all that money, I’d like all those pieces in place.”
Well, a few of those pieces will be in place. The official Yankees team email and social media accounts will support the spot, but not the individual players. As for the financial terms of the deal, a Wix representative would not disclose them. But it’s a reasonable bet that hiring a bunch of Yankees wasn’t cheap.
Wix, which just surpassed 110 million users, is obviously in a position to pay up. In fact, to make this spot in and around Yankee Stadium, the players had to get up at 5 a.m. for a shoot that started at 5:30—“and they had a game that day,” Shai said. “They are professionals.”