SBD/Issue 128/Leagues & Governing Bodies

MLB's Licensed Products, Revenues Continue To Grow In Japan

MLB Seeing Continued Growth Of
Licensed Products, Revenues In Japan
The number of MLB licensees in Japan has grown to 61 from just six in '00, and retail sales revenue from licensed products “has nearly tripled during that time to $103.7[M],” according to MLB figures cited by Michael Arnold of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Local partnerships include Uniqlo, one of Japan’s “leading clothing retail chains," and Toys “R” Us, whose stores in Japan have “MLB corners selling branded toys and apparel.” IMG Licensing Asia Senior VP Miki Yamamoto, whose company handles licensing in Japan for MLB, said that MLB apparel also is “sold at some 2,000 sporting goods stores around the country.” Yamamoto said at a mall in the Shibuya region of Tokyo, there are "kids with very hippy, trendy designs with a Red Sox logo or shocking pink Yankees clothing. Those girls are buying those products without knowing how [Red Sox P Daisuke Matsuzaka] is doing or how [Mariners CF Ichiro Suzuki] is doing. This is not just about baseball; it’s a culture now.” Arnold notes in Japan, one “main fan base is housewives, who happen to be home in the mornings when ... games from the U.S. are shown live.” Other target demos are young male professionals and children. According to MLB, the number of league sponsors in Japan has risen from four in ’00 to 17 last year. A MLB Clubhouse store on the streets of Shibuya was the “first such store outside the U.S.,” and it was followed six months later by a Clubhouse in Taipei as “part of MLB’s push elsewhere in Asia.” MLB has “100 stores in Korea and 40 shops in mainland China, with another 100 or so shops in Taiwan.” MLB Exec VP/Business Tim Brosnan said of China, “Football games and handball games are more popular there; stickball games not so much. We have to convert Chinese children, literally one at a time, to baseball” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/26).

Matsuzaka One Reason For
Baseball's Popularity In Japan
THREE TO TANGO: Akira Hirakata, a Senior Manager at Tokyo-based ad firm Dentsu, which “sells American baseball to broadcasters and advertisers in Japan,” said MLB is “now at the zenith of its popularity in Japan" due to Matsuzaka, Suzuki and Yankees LF Hideki Matsui, often called the Big Three. In DC, Blaine Harden notes in a front-page piece 550 MLB games per year are broadcast on TV in Japan and about 300 of them are carried without commercial interruption, “allowing Japanese viewers to gaze between innings at their beloved stars.” Meanwhile, companies branding "outside of Japanese stars is a challenge." Tokyo-based men’s salon chain Dandy House has “figured out how to ride the popularity of the Big Three on the cheap” by buying the majority of its ads in small markets like Tampa Bay or K.C. for $20,000-30,000. If they are rotating ads that appear for only a couple of innings a game, Dandy House “guesses when Ichiro or Matsui might come up to bat (based on their place in the lineup) and buys those innings.” It also “tries to calculate what cut-rate stadium ... Matsuzaka might start in” (WASHINGTON POST, 3/26).

UNIFORM LOGOS: Both the Red Sox and A's wore sponsor logos on their helmets and uniform sleeves during the two games played in Tokyo. ESPN’s Gary Thorne: “MLB does not allow this type of advertising but the exception was made for the two game set.” ESPN’s Steve Phillips responded, “They’ve done that for international play with the sponsors and promoters.” Phillips added, "If you’re going to build revenues, if you’re a sponsor out there, and you can get on the sleeve of a major league player, that’s not a bad idea” (ESPN2, 3/26).

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