It seems like a nightly occurrence: ESPN and Turner Sports airing footage of NBA stars such as LeBron James and Russell Westbrook walking through the tunnel as they enter the arena before games. The networks recognize that fans love seeing players’ style—from their clothing and footwear all the way up to hats and headphones. There are numerous social media platforms dedicated to sports’ culture and fashion.
Villanova student Alex Tantum has seen the television coverage and scrolled the social media feeds—including the Slam magazine run @leaguefits Instagram account, for example—which showcase the outfits of NBA players. But Tantum’s passion lies on the fields of Major League Baseball (MLB). And what he sees lacking is baseball’s appeal to a younger and more diverse fanbase.
“I have noticed that Major League Baseball is attempting to make a marketing push focusing on personality and young talent,” noted Tantum. “But they are still lagging behind to an extent.”
Tantum felt inspired to bring the excitement of MLB and its players to Instagram—through their fashion, culture and personality. In late 2019, he launched an Instagram account called MLBFITS (@mlb.fits). Tantum wanted MLBFITS to appeal to a younger fanbase and to be a platform where players could express themselves through their outfits and gear—such as the ever-popular customized cleats.
“I see MLBFITS as an account where players can promote themselves as individuals, and even their personal brands, should they have one,” Tantum said. “As a 21-year-old, I know what these young players are into and I appreciate it. In speaking with my friends—who are not as big of baseball fans as I am—I see that this is precisely what the game needs: more personality, more excitement."
“Outfits and customized gear are an extension of one's own personality,” continued Tantum. “Thinking of Lebron's ‘More than an Athlete’ slogan, I feel this is something baseball needs to do a better job of: marketing their players and letting their players express themselves as individuals. Baseball marketing needs to appeal to a younger and more diverse fanbase, and that is what I have been going about trying to do with MLBFITS.”
Upon launching MLBFITS, Tantum began slowly building his base of followers. He scrolled through MLB rosters, along with the Minor League Prospect Rankings for every MLB team. He followed players’ accounts and reached out to them through Direct Message—hoping to get a response and eventually a new Instagram follower. His first big breakthrough was a follow from five-time MLB All-Star Adam Jones, who Tantum said “loved the [MLBFITS] movement.”