Why OLG brought a historic baseball team back to life

Who: Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, with The Hive for strategy and creative; Fela for production (directed by LeSean Harris); Married to Giants, Artjail, OSO, and Daniel Planezza for post-production; with media by MediaCom.

What: A celebration of the 1934 Chatham Coloured All-Stars—the first all-Black team to win an Ontario Baseball Association Championship—in a digital film as well as inside the video game MLB The Show 22.

When & Where: The campaign is live now through digital and social channels, and inside the game.  

Why: While OLG’s most obvious role is running Ontario’s public lotteries, the second part of its mandate is supporting local communities and people across the province. It was looking for ways to share stories and spread awareness about some of those efforts.

“One of [OLG’s corporate] partnerships is with Major League Baseball, so baseball communities became the focus for this project,” said The Hive’s chief creative officer, Simon Creet. “In our research into baseball in Ontario, we found this historic team. It’s a fantastic story that deserves attention, and one that is in line with OLG’s mandate to do good in local communities.”

Since the Chatham Coloured All-Stars’ provincial victory happened nearly 90 years ago, this campaign isn’t about supporting that team. But it’s a way of bringing the team back to life and amplifying its story—a team of Black baseball players triumphing at a time when the game was still segregated—among a new generation of baseball fans.

This project isn’t only an expression of OLG’s support for local baseball; it also honours a local baseball team that endured racism and hardship on its way to becoming the best team in the province.

“OLG is extremely proud to be part of this effort with our MLB partners, to shine a spotlight on historical figures in our province who broke barriers and contributed to the betterment of our communities,” said Duncan Hannay, OLG’s president and CEO, in a release.

How (the game): There are two key components to this one. First, The Hive used MLB The Show’s team editor function to meticulously recreate the Chatham Coloured All-Stars using historical photos and team artifacts, and by talking with family members of the team and the Chatham Kent Black Historical Society. The 13-player roster was uploaded to the game, so anyone searching for the Chatham Coloured All-Stars can find and download the team roster and logo, and build the team themselves. (The team included the father of MLB Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins.)

There’s no OLG brand presence in this part of the campaign. “Our intention from the outset of this project was to keep their memory alive and portray this historic baseball team as accurately as possible,” said The Hive’s associate creative director, Ryan Speziale. “So we didn’t want to include anything that would take away from the authenticity of the gaming experience for people.”

OLG also donated $25,000 to the Chatham Kent Black Historical Society.

How (the film): The Hive and OLG also worked with Fela to create a short film featuring the descendants of the team. Called “Chatham Plays On,” the film provides an overview of the team’s history and the players’ perseverance through racism and the era’s other challenges.

In addition to helping tell the team’s story, the film is being used as the main communications asset for the campaign. There’s a CTA at the end for gamers to search for the team name in MLB The Show, and it is being promoted through an online media buy and via MLB’s owned and social platforms.

The film is also hosted on a special section of the OLG website, which tells a little of the Chatham All-Stars’ story and provides instructions on how to build the team in MLB The Show.

Directors cut: “Branded content that comes in the form of films like this are important because the focus is the story rather than a product,” said LeSean Harris, who directed the film for Fela. “Ultimately, it’s the story that resonates with people and this story is especially important because it unearths certain hard truths about our country that we often choose to ignore,” he said.

Canadians often believe stories like this come from the U.S., even though this is a country with its own history of discrimination, he said. But “Chatham Plays On,” is still a story of celebration.

“Through baseball this group of young men were able to lift up their entire community during a very tumultuous time while paving the way for some of the most celebrated baseball players the major leagues has ever seen.

“It’s refreshing to see brands like OLG and MLB stand behind these stories.”

And we quote: “The Chatham Coloured All-Stars showed the world what it means to persevere in the face of adversity. It is an honour to help keep the team’s memory alive by introducing their story to as many people as possible, including a new generation of baseball fans. It’s part of OLG’s commitment to giving back to Ontario.” — Duncan Hannay, president and CEO, OLG

David Brown