'Believe' catches on amid Mariners' late push

Seattle region, fellow sports teams rally around 'Ted Lasso' catchphrase

October 2nd, 2021

SEATTLE -- How does one transform an intangible pipeline dream into a palpable, mainstream marketing campaign? Depending on who you ask in the Mariners’ clubhouse and front office, it begins with the effort to “Believe.”

The campaign that has taken Seattle by storm over the past week truly began in Spring Training, when Mariners manager Scott Servais opened his morning media sessions with an inspirational -- and often cheesy -- quote from the hit AppleTV+ series “Ted Lasso,” a wildly popular show that he began watching before the onset of 2021.

Now, what began from Lasso’s commentary is gripping a community enraptured with Mariners mania and the prospect of reaching the postseason for the first time in 20 years. But it’s also stretched across the rest of the MLB landscape.

The Red Sox broadcast mentioned “Believe” when discussing the Mariners during Boston’s critical loss to the Baltimore on Thursday. MLB Network’s “Intentional Talk” dropped a “Believe” comment at the top of its show when outlining Seattle’s September surge.

"It's been fun. It's no surprise at all -- our marketing department does a great job kind of jumping on whatever's going on in our world at the time," Servais said. "So, I think ‘Believe’ is perfect. We've talked about it with our players. We have believed. We believe in ourselves and our ability to play good baseball."

The rest of the city’s professional sports teams -- the NFL’s Seahawks, MLS’ Sounders and the NHL’s Kraken -- shared a #Believe hashtag in support of the Mariners on social media. And there were countless yellow-and-blue “Believe” cutouts for the Mariners’ sellout crowd on Friday.

Yes, this campaign began with Servais’ lines in March, but it didn’t inject itself into another social stratosphere until Monday, when the club returned from its most recent road trip and a “Believe” banner similar to the one in the locker room of Lasso’s AFC Richmond soccer club hung on the left-field façade at T-Mobile Park.

A few innings into the banner’s debut, Mitch Haniger crushed two homers near the sign en route to a huge win over Oakland that, regardless of superstition or coincidence, felt symbolic.

The Mariners’ marketing department knew it had something special on its hands, so it aggressively ran with it. The social media team first tweeted “Believe” on Sept. 24, so the chatter was already out there. But Kevin Martinez, Mariners senior vice president of marketing and communications, and his team aimed to bring that conversation to life.

"It's really listening and being aware of what's happening and what's coming out of the clubhouse," Martinez said. "What are the fans talking about? We saw a lot of ‘Believe’ chatter among our fans in social. That’s really our job. If you can amplify and elevate something that's happening organically, right? That's usually the most powerful way for everybody to really grab hold and embrace it. And as opposed to manufacturing it, it takes a long time for it to grab hold in this environment."

Jarred Kelenic had a hand in this, too, also in an organic way. After propelling the Mariners to a come-from-behind win on Wednesday, the rookie center fielder hoisted a yellow “Believe” sign to the crowd of 17,366 prior to a mic-drop moment in his on-field interview with ROOT Sports, emotionally imploring fans to pack T-Mobile Park for this final regular-season series.

Martinez’s team then went to work, printing 125,000 “Believe” placards to distribute throughout this weekend’s final regular-season series. They also ordered a bevy of blue t-shirts with yellow lettering, an inverse to the signs, for the entire left-field bleacher section. He called that area the “Bleacher Believers.” Mariners chairman and managing partner John Stanton was wearing one during batting practice on Friday. The hope was to have rally towels, but there was a supply shortage related to the pandemic.

There were also plenty of visual presentations on the Jumbotron and the ROOT Sports telecast to carry through the weekend. And there are already plans in the works for the postseason, too, if Seattle reaches the American League Division Series, which would include a home game for at least a Game 3 next Sunday, Oct. 10, and a Game 4, if necessary, the following day.

Martinez, citing superstition and ongoing planning, didn’t elaborate on those details, but there’s a strong bet it will continue with the “Believe” brand.

"It’s something that people have heard Scott say and some of the players say throughout the season, then it really connects quickly," Martinez said. "So, we try to always have our ears open and say, ‘How can we move on it quickly?’ and that's, in my opinion, that’s where the magic is."

If this run continues, there’s also hope that "Ted Lasso" star Jason Sudeikis himself could get involved. Martinez and the Mariners have already reached out to the actor’s representatives to make him aware of what’s happening here, a story comprising a locker room brimming with unapologetic loyalty to each other and relentless determination to defy its underdog chances.

Which ties this all back to “Ted Lasso,” which two weeks ago won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series. Put simply, it’s a hit -- not just for its superb acting and character development, but more for its wholesome themes that resonate to audiences regardless of age.

And that’s why those sayings reverberated within Seattle’s clubhouse, even among the players who don’t watch the show, simply because Lasso’s character -- an American football-coach-turned-European-soccer coach, preaches relentless positive reinforcement.

Regardless of how long this “Believe” run takes the Mariners, this week and this campaign is one that will be remembered for quite some time.