A Baseball League's Challenge
A Report from the Field of Fast-paced Sports Digital Strategic Marketing

[Fujitsu Forum 2016 Event Report]

Fujitsu Forum 2016 was held on May 19 and 20, 2016 at the Tokyo International Forum in Yurakucho, Tokyo. In a conference held on May 20, Tomoki Negishi, COO and CMO of Pacific League Marketing Corporation (PLM), and Satoshi Komiyama, former professional baseball player and baseball commentator, talked about specific case studies that aim to have all Pacific League baseball teams use ICT to increase the number of professional baseball fans.

PLM's Mission: Developing New Fans of Professional Baseball

Tomoki Negishi, COO and CMO of Pacific League Marketing Corporation

Mr. Negishi from Pacific League Marketing Corporation (PLM) talked about the history of PLM's establishment, describing the reorganization of the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) during a time said to be a crisis for NPB. He passionately spoke about PLM's mission and vision: "With the mission of 'developing new fans of professional baseball' and a vision of making Japanese society bright and lively by developing the worlds of professional baseball and sports in general,' we would like to use ICT to continue to provide new value to professional baseball fans."

Professional baseball is structured around 'business operations,' which involve stadium operations that earn revenue from sales of tickets and goods, and 'baseball operations,' which involve the development of excellent players and game strategies to lead teams to victory. In the professional baseball business, the most important thing is to bring customers (fans) to stadiums. From this point of view, area marketing is important. Mr. Negishi described the business operation area as follows: "PLM focuses on two types of things, what all six teams in the Pacific League should work together to achieve, and what individual teams cannot achieve on their own."

Pacific League TV, a Live Game Streaming Service

As an example of implementing ICT, Pacific League TV suggests a new way to view sports.
Pacific League TV is a fee-based live game streaming service that makes use of technology from Fujitsu Systems West. Usually, broadcasting rights to baseball games are owned by the team that organized the game. However, if each term were to sell its own game video streaming service, fans could watch videos of the games organized by the team they support, but fans would not be able to watch videos of games organized by opposing teams.
Therefore, the six Pacific League teams adopted a system of entrusting their rights to PLM first and then receiving revenue distributions later. This system is highly convenient for fans and eliminates wasteful infrastructure and promotion. Mr. Negishi explained: "Pacific League TV, which is currently used by more than 70,000 fans, has now become a main business for PLM. Traditionally, baseball fans either went to the ballpark or watched the game on TV. These days, they can also watch games on their computers, smartphones, and tablets whenever and wherever they want. Young fans do not visit ballparks very frequently, but now many young fans use this service, which contributes to business continuity."

Reaching Different Markets by Using ICT to Provide a New Way to Watch Baseball Games

Next, the focus of discussion shifted to the 'market redefinition' caused by the use of ICT, which enables entry into previously unavailable markets. Mr. Negishi noted that PLM now provides a live professional golf streaming service using the Pacific League TV platform and acquired knowhow. He also introduced a new technology that allows users to directly purchase goods worn by professional players in sports videos, remarking on its future potential as follows: "As sports excitement has a high affinity to consumer appetites, this technology has great future potential."

Then, Mr. Negishi introduced a video-content distribution website developed in cooperation with Fujitsu's Innovative Solution Business Unit to meet the needs of fans who wanted to easily be able to search for specific past plays. The robustness of this function led to the expansion of its utilization scope: it caught the attention of the baseball operations side, and a mechanism was then developed to apply this function to scout for players. Multiple baseball teams have already adopted this system, and PLM is currently advising American Major League Baseball on adopting it.

Mr. Negishi then listed some apps, including the 'Pacific League Walk' health app and the 'Pacific League Math Home Run' and 'Pacific League Kanji Struckout' educational apps for elementary school students, making clear that PLM will roll out apps in accordance with its vision, "Making Japanese society bright."

Mr. Negishi concluded his presentation by emphasizing that ICT greatly contributes to achieving PLM's mission and vision as well as the creation of new value.

Video Archiving Will Change the Future of Baseball

Satoshi Komiyama, former professional baseball player and baseball commentator

In the latter half of the conference, Satoshi Komiyama, former professional baseball player and baseball commentator, took the podium. Mr. Komiyama, who played as an intellectual pitcher, expressed words of admiration for the video streaming system provided by Fujitsu's Innovative Solution Business Unit, which has already been adopted by multiple Pacific League teams. "This system derived from a service developed for fans now contributes to training players. That is amazing. If this system enables players to understand what they should do to raise their levels of play, it could be a major competitive edge," he said with surprise.

When Mr. Komiyama played professionally, he used printed data prepared by a baseball data analysis company. Having been an intellectual player, to effectively make use of data that contained the subjective views of data analysts, he matched the data against videos of each game and checked charts for each batter.
"If I had this video analysis system, I could have developed limitless strategies to retire batters," he said enviously. "Past videos are also available, which provide the best possible point of comparison between past and present performance. This system will definitely change baseball and produce fascinating results in a few years, including the results of deployment."

The system can be used not only to study opponents but also to support player training. "For example, it is helpful for players if they can use the video archive when practicing repeatedly to master breaking pitches. If young players make full use of this system, the game of baseball will surely change," he emphasized, referring to the active deployment of this kind of ICT system in the professional sports world.

In the final part of the presentation, Mr. Komiyama talked about his greatest plays and other untold stories and episodes from his playing days to meet the audience's expectations, enchanting the audience with his stories.

  • Tomoki Negishi
    COO and CMO
    Pacific League Marketing Corporation

  • Satoshi Komiyama
    Former professional baseball player and baseball commentator