PITTSBURGH — It used to be shoe deals, Wheaties boxes and Gatorade commercials. If an athlete wanted to reach the masses outside of sports, major marketing deals were the recipe.
In 2014, players can connect with fans almost constantly. Mechanisms are smaller and impact is greater, allowing for more creativity when stars want to branch out from sports.
In that vein, Shelby Miller teamed with Tampa Bay’s 2013 AL Rookie of the Year Wil Myers to release Wil and Shelby’s Baseball Battle, an iOS game published by Moonshark.
On Mobile? You can view the video here.
Both players are represented by CAA and when the agency approached them with the idea, they jumped on board.
“He’s a guy who has incredible talent,” Miller said of Myers. “They came up to both of us and told us about this opportunity to make a game for us and we thought it was a good idea.”
As he was interviewed before Wednesday’s game, Miller was playing what looked like a tower defense game on his iPad. It’s the same one several other Cardinals have played in their minutes of downtime and further evidence of a paradigm shift in what players both care about and connect with.
Miller’s and Myers’ game is designed to pit pitcher versus hitter, allowing for global multiplayer through the use of Facebook. Players can design their own avatar down to the uniform, as well as create custom stadiums to play in.
The two players received early versions of the game to test, but the St. Louis hurler said he didn’t have much criticism of early drafts.
“They sent it out earlier and we played with it, toyed with it, and really it was good right away. We didn’t have to change it up too much,” he said. “I play it now and it’s a pretty fun game actually. It’s pretty easy to learn to play quick. It’s an easy game for people our age, kids, whatever.”
CAA partnered with Qualcomm to found Moonshark in 2011 (then called Creative Mobile Labs), creating games for several entertainers and athletes.
It’s an interesting change in the way this generation of stars interacts with fans. A TV spot can put an athlete in millions of homes, but a mobile app can put them in millions of pockets all day, every day.
The success of such ventures could spur more baseball players to branch into mobile markets when looking to broaden their reach.
“You think about technology these days and how it’s grown, especially the past few years. I know Posey has his own game and a couple other players do. It’s just kind of cool to have your own game,” Miller said. “It’s just kind of cool to have your name involved in any kind of video game, I think, since I play a lot of games.”
Miller is an avid console gamer, playing major titles like FIFA and Call of Duty on Xbox One in addition to games on his iPad and phone.
His teammates have not yet had a chance to play Wil and Shelby’s Baseball Battle, but they won’t have to wait long. The game comes out Thursday.