OLG immortalizes an all-Black 1930s baseball team

By bringing the Chatham Coloured All-Stars into a video game, the crown corp aims to further enrich Ontario and tell stories from its communities.

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Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) is letting gamers download a roster of history-making Black ballplayers into MLB The Show 22.

Using the video game’s team editor function, OLG’s creative agency partner The Hive recreated the 1934 Chatham Coloured All-Stars – the first all-Black team to win an Ontario Baseball Association Championship – using historical photos and team artifacts. The Hive uploaded the searchable 13-player roster to the game so anyone perusing the game’s Logo Vault and Player Vault can find and download the roster and logo, and build the team themselves.

For the digitally-led campaign, The Hive and OLG also worked with Major League Baseball, descendants of the team’s players, as well as the Black Historical Society of Chatham to bring history to life, and make it resonate with a younger generation of fans.

According to Duncan Hannay, OLG’s president and CEO, the campaign “shine[s] a spotlight on historical figures in our province who broke barriers and contributed to the betterment of our communities.”

“This is a wholly masterbrand initiative, and the focus on everything we do…is to reinforce our purpose for existing as an organization, and that is to contribute to a better Ontario,” says Greg Dermer, director, enterprise brand experience & marketing at Ontario Lottery and Gaming, emphasizing that 100% of the agency’s profits go back to the province, something many are still not aware of.

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OLG is also showcasing the Chatham Coloured All-Stars’ legacy through a short film “Chatham Plays On,” featuring the families of the legendary players. This project, developed by The Hive and directed by LeSean Harris of Fela, provides an overview of the team and how the players struggled with discrimination.

Dermer tells strategy the team is a fascinating part of Ontario history and a way for OLG to highlight important, local, community stories, adding that the story is such a special one, it could eventually be expanded into longer form content.

According to Dermer, the nature of the competitive sports betting marketplace, has it thinking about how it can differentiate itself, especially by telling very compelling stories, and doing it through a video game, which is a new foray for the organization. While it does have a partnership with the gaming team, Raptors Uprising, part of the NBA 2K league, it’s never integrated in this fashion from a storytelling lens.

The timing of the campaign, is twofold: the Field of Honour charity game last week in Chatham, in which Chatham-born MLB Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins took part, and the beginning of MLB playoffs.

According to Ryan Speziale, ACD at The Hive, the project’s primary target was to resonate with baseball fans, but has expanded far beyond that. While the story is rooted in baseball, it has much wider cultural relevance.

And Speziale notes that the agency wanted to depict the Chatham Coloured All-Stars very accurately. “We knew Fergie Jenkins Sr. [father of Canadian MLB star Jenkins] threw and batted left-handed, for example, so we created him that way,” Speziale says. “We wanted to be as authentic as possible.”

MediaCom is providing media buy support. The campaign is aimed at digital spaces where sports fans are consuming content.

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