Baseball For All: An Interview with Robin Fitzgerald, EVP, CCO at BBDO Atlanta.
By Jeff Finkle.
It’s April and in the U.S. that means Spring is here and nothing signifies Spring like the return of baseball. While adults are watching their favorite pro teams, boys and girls are breaking in their gloves and dreaming of being big leaguers. Baseball For All, was founded by Justine Siegal with the goal of keeping the dreams alive for girls who are forced to give up the sport they love before high school due to the lack of girls’ baseball teams.
BBDO Atlanta launched the pro-bono campaign “Baseball For All” during the World Series last October and we would like to thank Robin Fitzgerlad, EVP and CCO at BBDO Atlanta for taking the time to talk about the agency’s involvement with a cause that is empowering girls across the country.
ADForum: How did BBDO Atlanta first get involved with the Baseball for All organization, dedicated to encouraging girls to play baseball?
Robin: This was a passion project of mine, that became a passion project for the whole agency. I met Justine about six months before her tournament. I like watching baseball but I didn’t grow up playing it. What made me passionate about Justine’s cause was her passion for equality. She often says “If you tell a girl she can’t play baseball, what else will she think she can’t do?” I believe it. The moment you start putting limits on people, the moment they start accepting those limits. I have a young son and daughter and I want them to both know they can be whatever they want to be.
AdForum: If you were to look ten years into the future, what do you think will be the biggest impact that the Baseball For All organization will have on high school age girls?
Robin: The hope is to have girls’ baseball as an option, instead of the only choice being softball or a somewhat difficult, needlessly stigmatized and lonely road being the only girl on the boys’ baseball team. And ten years in the future, let’s hope there’s a female MLB player, instead of just a fictional one on a Fox series, that these girls can model themselves after. It’ll happen. There’s already one Baseball for All alumn in the Minors – Kelsie Whitmore.
AdForum: What was the main reason your creative team chose the song “Centerfield” by John Fogerty to build the concept of the TV spots around?
Robin: Centerfield is in the Baseball Hall of Fame. It’s played in Major League ballparks across the country. But these are ballparks that don’t include any professional female ballplayers…yet. Having young girls lend their own voices to the lyrics gave the song a powerful new meaning.
We’re grateful to John Fogerty for granting us permission to use it for our cause.
AdForum: The girls in the commercial all look like competitive baseball players. What was the atmosphere on the shoot like and did you film actual games for the spot?
Robin: Yes, the spots were filmed during the second annual Baseball for All Nationals tournament in San Francisco. There were all ages of girls playing on four separate fields, from 4 to 18. They came from all over the United States and Canada. Some knew each other, and some were playing together on a team for the first time.
Several of the teenage girls were the only girls on their high school varsity baseball teams. And for quite a few of them, this was the first time they’d played on an all-girl team.
I don’t think we could’ve captured the passion and authenticity of these girls if we had tried to film this like a typical commercial. The atmosphere was a nonstop mix of energy and intense warmups and “we hit dingers” chants and laughter and spitting sunflower seeds. The girls were competitive but also so supportive of each other. For that tournament weekend, they weren’t the odd girls out on a boys’ team. They were just baseball players.
It was incredible spending the weekend with the girls and their families. Hearing their stories and how hard they’ve worked and how proud they are to be there was truly inspiring.
AdForum: What has been the feedback from girls and their parents on social media after the campaign began running?
Robin: It’s been great. Justine Siegal, the founder of Baseball for All, has told us this campaign has had the biggest single positive impact for their organization. More than 500 girls from the U.S., Canada and Australia have signed up to form teams in their areas.
AdForum: Tracy Reiner, who played “Betti Spaghetti” in the movie A League of Their Own is on the advisory board of Baseball For All. Did you have a favorite Rockford Peach player from that beloved baseball movie?
Robin: I’d say my favorites are the two women we met at the tournament who played in the actual league that inspired the movie. Maybelle Blair and Shirley Burkovich. Maybelle even showed me her glove – she said it’s more famous than she is because they used it in the movie. Those ladies sat through game after game cheering on the girls. They couldn’t have asked for better role models.