SBD/Issue 158/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

MLB Alters "Spider-Man 2" Promo Amid Fan, Media Backlash

Base Runners Will Slide Into The Familiar
MLB Bases During June 11-13 Weekend

MLB Properties and Columbia Pictures have decided not to place the "Spider-Man 2" logo on bases during MLB's "Spider-Man 2" Weekend June 11-13. MLB President & COO Bob DuPuy said in a statement, "The bases were an extremely small part of this program; however, we understand that a segment of our fans was uncomfortable with this particular component and we do not want to detract from the fan's experience in any way" (MLB). MLB spokesperson Carmine Tiso said that the "Spider-Man 2" logos "will remain on the on-deck circle throughout the game and on home plate and the pitching rubber for pregame ceremonies." There will also be stadium signage and movie highlights on video boards (WASHINGTON POST, 5/7). MLB Commissioner Bud Selig: "We need to keep the focus on the field right now. ... If [the logo on the bases] bothered some people, frankly it isn't worth a great debate about it" (MLB.com, 5/7). More Selig: "I'm a traditionalist. The problem in sports marketing, particularly in baseball, is you're always walking a very sensitive line" (L.A. TIMES, 5/7).

POLL POSITION: On Long Island, Ken Davidoff cites sources as saying that the promotion "fell apart so quickly ... because [Columbia] officials were extremely unhappy with the huge amount of negative publicity it received" (NEWSDAY, 5/7). Columbia TriStar Marketing Group President of Worldwide Marketing Geoffery Ammer added, "We saw some of the polls on the Internet that said that 71 and 81[%] of the fans didn't approve of it. Based on this reaction from the fans, we didn't want to do anything to take away from their enjoyment of the game and if that was the case with this element of the promotion, we could afford to do without it." In an ESPN.com poll, 79.4% of nearly 45,000 respondents thought MLB was "selling out" by placing the ads on the field (ESPN.com, 5/6). In THE DAILY poll, 72% of 182 respondents said MLB was "crossing the line" with the promotion (THE DAILY). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Gail Schiller reports MLB said that the decision to pull the logos "was because of opposition from fans and not because" the Yankees said they would only participate in certain aspects of the promotion. Ammer: "You have to be sensitive marketers. It was a valuable lesson to learn" (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 5/7).

A Peek At What "Spider-Man 2"
Bases Would Have Looked Like

NOT WORTH IT: Ammer, who noted that the idea of putting logos on the bases was Columbia's, said of eliminating the logos, "It's disappointing, in that we thought it would be a fun aspect, and not harmful. But we realize in retrospect that a lot of people are very upset about it." DuPuy: "We didn't want to offend any of our fans. It wasn't worth the risk." Ammer indicated that he "had not discussed whether eliminating the ... signs on the bases would reduce the value of" the deal, around $2.5M, but Selig said that the monetary value would be unchanged (N.Y. TIMES, 5/7).

TEAM-MATES? The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Fatsis & Steinberg cite sources as saying that one "big part of the problem" was that some senior team execs "were unaware of the scope of the promotion, including the plan to decorate the bases." Two club execs indicated that teams "had been promised the right to approve the on-base ads, but hadn't been given any designs by [MLB] before the deal was revealed." One exec noted that teams were not informed that MLB "planned to discuss the promotion and were blindsided by the news. Afterward, several teams called [MLB] headquarters to complain that the on-base advertising disrespected baseball's history and could be problematic in cities with strong traditions, including Boston and [N.Y.]" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/7). But Royals Dir of Advertising & Promotions Kim Hillix said that she "did not receive any phone calls or e-mails complaining about the promotion." Hillix added that the team originally discussed the promotion with MLB last November (K.C. STAR, 5/7).

KNOW WHEN TO SAY WHEN: Grizzlies President of Business Operations Andy Dolich, a former A's marketing exec, noted, "When some teams fixed up their foul poles with home improvement advertising, there wasn't much media response. But there's been a large response by people who think this seems illogical. These four white bases, to a lot of people, represent valuable jewels that should be left alone" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 5/7). Former Padres exec John Shean: "I had a reputation as a guy who would sell anything that wasn't nailed down. Second base was nailed down" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 5/7). Red Sox Exec VP/Public Affairs Charles Steinberg said that his team "has tried to be selective" while adding signs to maximize revenue at Fenway Park. Steinberg: "The heart that beats in this company's business management is the beat of marrying ballpark ambiance with marketing aggressiveness" (HARTFORD COURANT, 5/7).

POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE PUBLICITY? Joyce Julius' Eric Wright indicated that "Spider-Man 2" received $1.8-$2.4M in equivalent advertising time during the first 24 hours after the announcement (Darren Rovell, ESPN.com, 5/7). N.Y.-based ad agency Della Femina Rothschild Jeary President & COO Michael Jeary said the publicity generated from news of the promo "is going to be a lot more than it's ever going to achieve in terms of the monetary and impact value of the advertising per se. ... I didn't even know 'Spider-Man 2' was coming out. Now everybody's talking about it. I think they got their value out of it" (L.A. TIMES, 5/7). But Davie-Brown Entertainment Dir of Creative Strategy John Kaplan said the backlash over the deal "sends a message to the whole entertainment marketing community that there are times we should even temper ourselves in the ongoing mission to try to get as many eyeballs as possible on the products that we want to sell" (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 5/7).

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