In his 10th season working the social media side of the Colorado Rockies business, Julian Valentin has had a unique puzzle to figure out since mid-March. How do you keep baseball fans engaged with the sport they love when there is no clear time frame of when that sport might return?
As the director of brand management and social media for the Colorado Rockies, Valentin has had one constant thought pop into his head each week since baseball went on hiatus.
“Every Sunday night, I sit down at the desk in my home office to prepare for the week ahead and think to myself, ‘Maybe this is the week things slow down a bit and we can enter into a routine.'” Valentin told me in an exclusive chat. “That definitely has not happened yet and it doesn’t seem like it will. Things have been crazy.”
Without games to detail or on-field milestones to mark, @Rockies and Colorado’s other social media accounts have had a unique set of challenges to conquer. Valentin, however, said that he and his team have looked at it as an opportunity rather than a roadblock.
“This time has certainly had some unique challenges,” Valentin said. “I think, having done this for so long, the games can be something you fall back on as easy content because they kind of write themselves. Now, we’re really relying on creative activation and some outside-of-the-box concepts and, for us, that’s right up our alley.
“Even when we have games, we’re always looking for new or different ways to engage our fans and this is no different without those games.”
That engagement of fans has included everything from the massive undertaking that was this year’s Stay at Home Opener broadcast (that took the place of what would have Colorado’s home opener on April 3 against the San Diego Padres) to having Ryan McMahon and Ian Desmond read children’s books as part of a promotion with the Denver Public Library to help keep literacy front of mind with schools out of session.
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And, let’s be clear, these social media activities are not just about engagement and likes on Instagram. Valentin said that the Rockies are doing things to impact their community and keeping the focus on that with no baseball being played.
That Stay at Home Opener? It raised over $500,000 for food banks in Colorado and Wyoming. What could have been a depressing day in Colorado without baseball turned into a chance for Rockies fans to watch some of the best moments in franchise history and also help out their neighbors in need.
“I think, for me right now, the big thing is trying to do work that is impactful and is really going to make a difference, whether it’s communicating key messages to our fans or doing projects like the masks,” Valentin said. “Even providing entertainment is something that we all need right now. Everything that we do has a purpose and we’re trying to make a positive impact within our fan base with everything we do.”
Ah yes, the masks. It’s amazing what kind of interest you can drum up by stating on Twitter you are turning old Rockies gear into masks to help protect people during these historic days.
We’ll talk about the mask project in a whole other story tomorrow, so be on the lookout for that. However, these masks have shown what can happen when a social media account knows its audience and engages them with a timely and authentic post.
Social media 101? Hardly. Moments like these have been built over years.
“We are leaning on instincts and the community that we have built and cultivated over time,” Valentin said. “We are taking what we have built over the years and doing successful work because of it.”
But nothing could have prepared Valentin or baseball for what was to come this season.