Knowing When to Double Down on a Viral Moment
Liz McGuire took a foul ball to the head
Liz McGuire

Knowing When to Double Down on a Viral Moment

May 31, 2024

A few weeks ago a Toronto Blue Jays fan was struck in the head by a foul ball traveling at 110 mph. The results were… not pretty. All things considered though? They didn’t turn out too bad. 

The fan, Liz McGuire, remained for the rest of the game to cheer on her team despite what can only be described as a grapefruit-sized lump protruding from just above her right eye. After failing to even get the ball that did the damage, McGuire tweeted at the Jays and went viral. The team hooked her up with some tickets, signed merch and an invite to batting practice — a not unheard of maneuver by a team when something weird happens to a fan at a game.

What the Blue Jays did next, however, was truly innovative. They connected with legendary trading card makers Topps to produce a limited run of 110 (in honor of the speed of the foul ball) cards commemorating the accident and forever etching McGuire’s grotesquely swollen forehead in a physical rendering. They then gave McGuire all 110 cards to do with as she pleased. Cut to a plethora of major news organizations covering the story, an avalanche of earned media, fans posting all across social media about it and sizable bids on eBay for a few cards that McGuire chose to auction off. 

This is of course all very cool: wounded party is stoked, fans are amused and Blue Jays get media coverage that costs next to nothing. Everybody wins and — importantly for our purposes here — we all get a lesson in reactive marketing. The beauty of live events is that every single moment is one of a kind. But in today’s world, each of those moments have the opportunity to, in the words of one Gladiator who knew the value of live entertainment, “echo in eternity.” It’s on us to recognize these moments with potential and subsequently turn them into something more than just a moment. Something viral. Something impactful. Something more lasting. Something that makes fans feel like part of the in-crowd for getting the reference. Something for fans to send to each other and discuss. Something for fans to look at and say, “Man, it’s so cool that my team thought to do this.”

These moments are everywhere, and need not necessarily involve grievous fan injury to be capitalized upon effectively. Look at how Minnesota’s Tourism Board sprung into action and created an entire marketing campaign after Anthony Edwards told Charles Barkley to “Bring ya ass” to Minnesota for the conference finals. Look at how Kyle Kuzma went viral for wearing an absurdly giant pink sweater for his tunnel walk, after which the Washington Wizards created a bobblehead of the fit that was met with much fanfare. 

Of course every moment isn’t worthy of a marketing campaign or the creation of a physical object. But far more of them are than you think. Fans love these in-crowd, memeable moments that help them feel like they belong to something special and unique. So keep thinking creatively and act fast — you never know the next moment that, if nurtured properly by your organization, might lead to a groundswell of positive attention.

Other assorted nuggets of internet wisdom from this week…

Bleacher Report: Unrivaled Basketball to set record for highest average salary in women's team sports

Sports Media Watch: WNBA hits highs on three networks, and not just due to Caitlin Clark

Front Office Sports: Here’s why cricket Is having a major American moment

ESPN: WWE, UFC merging live events teams to 1 group

SBJ: Golden State Valkyries sees high ticket, merch sales a week after brand launch

Knowing When to Double Down on a Viral Moment