SBD/Issue 212/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

Survey Finds Strasburg As MLB's Most Marketable Under 25

Stephen Strasburg Also Ranked As Fourth
Most Marketable Player In All Of Baseball

A mere seven weeks into his MLB career, Stephen Strasburg is baseball’s most marketable player under the age of 25, according to an exclusive survey of 50 sports business execs and media personalities conducted by THE DAILY. The Nationals rookie, who also ranked as the fourth most marketable player overall in MLB, made his major league debut in June to unprecedented buzz. He has more than lived up to the hype so far, earning wins in four of his first six decisions. As the most important catalyst for the Nationals’ swelling popularity in DC, Strasburg earned an impressive 62% of first-place votes, nearly double that of second-place finisher Evan Longoria (32%). Braves rookie Jason Heyward finished in third place with 4% of first-place votes. Enthusiasm for Strasburg's marketability was unanimous among respondents, as the rookie appeared on all 50 ballots submitted for the survey, followed closely by Longoria (47) and Heyward (46).

BEST OF THE REST: Strasburg, Longoria and Heyward were far and away the most popular choices for our panelists; no other player appeared on more than 19 ballots, and only one other player received a first-place vote outside the top three. Rays pitcher David Price ranks a distant fourth, followed closely by the most surprising inclusion, Bryce Harper. The Nationals prospect has yet to reach agreement on a contract with the club, much less step on a minor league field, but nonetheless is experiencing much of the same buzz Strasburg faced coming out of the draft just one year ago.

METHODOLOGY: The survey was distributed to corporate brand managers, marketing and branding executives, agencies and baseball media, who were asked to list, in order, the top five most marketable players under the age of 25 in MLB. Points were awarded on a five-point scale, with a player awarded five points for a first-place vote, four points for second place, etc. Click here to see the full results.

MLB MOST MARKETABLE PLAYERS UNDER THE AGE OF 25
RK
NAME
TEAM
1ST
2ND
3RD
4TH
5TH
TOTAL BALLOTS
TOTAL POINTS
% FIRST
1
Stephen Strasburg
Nationals
31
10
5
2
2
50
216
62%
2
Evan Longoria
Rays
16
18
10
1
2
47
186
32%
3
Jason Heyward
Braves
2
16
21
6
1
46
150
4%
4
David Price
Rays
 
2
3
7
7
19
38
0%
5
Bryce Harper
Nationals
 
2
2
6
2
12
28
0%

NATIONAL MONUMENT: There is no denying the buzz surrounding Strasburg's debut this season, and his on-field performance to date has only furthered his status as baseball’s next great marketable star. Team Epic Principal David Grant went so far as to say Strasburg "may be the most marketable in the league." Grant: "He is young, seems like a good kid, has a long future, and his stuff is just unbelievable. The only downside is playing in Washington, where the political landscape always hangs above." Amplify Sports & Entertainment President Michael Neuman attributed Strasburg's marketability to two factors: his top-line pitching and his agent, Scott Boras. Before Strasburg was drafted No. 1 overall by the Nationals last year, many around baseball debated whether a team would be able to afford the phenom. The Nationals selected Strasburg and Boras drove a hard bargain, all the while boosting the public profile of his newest client. "All of his clients seem to get noticed because he is a celebrity as well," Neuman said of Boras. rEvolution President & CEO John Rowady also cited Boras' impact on Strasburg’s marketability, as the rookie already boasts endorsement deals with companies such as Nike and Topps. "He’s got a powerhouse agent, and he’s got Nike in his camp," Rowady said. "I see all those things as developing him into somebody that can be a machine out there from a marketing perspective." Rowady also emphasized the tremendous opportunity for sponsors to get in on the ground floor with Strasburg early in his career. "Right now, marketers have the opportunity to get on board with this guy at a different investment level," he said. "If he creates this consistency as being dominant, and showcases that the media really likes him, he’s only going to grow in value."

Longoria Appears On Cover Of
Video Game, In New Era Spot

RAY OF SUNSHINE: Compared to Strasburg, whose marketability is highly touted but largely unfulfilled to date, Longoria has proven himself to be marketable on a national stage. The Rays third baseman, who also ranked as the sixth most marketable player overall in MLB, stars in his own national TV spot for New Era Cap Co. and appears on the cover of "MLB 2K10.” It is his proven track record of marketability that resonates most with 16W Marketing co-Founder & President Steve Rosner, who noted that while there is a buzz about Strasburg, Longoria is proven. "He played on an up-and-coming team, a team that used to be cellar-dwellars then they started rising to the top, and he has been a central part of it," Rosner said. "He has been able to secure some endorsement deals over the last year and a half because I think the sponsors are looking for what's new, the younger guy." GMR Marketing Senior VP & Group Account Dir Greg Busch said, "Longoria is a star on the rise. With three All-Star selections in his first three years and several other awards, he has an exemplary track record on the field. Off the field, he’s an attractive option, as he’s not overexposed from an advertising perspective. His endorsements are also well defined, as they’re endemic to the game." Other panelists noted that Longoria comes across both as poised and well spoken. "He’s a good-looking California boy who can deliver a line pretty well,” said Baker Street Advertising Exec VP & Exec Creative Dir Bob Dorfman. rEvolution's Rowady agreed with Dorfman's assessment. "He’s showcasing that he can handle the media spotlight real well. As a spokesperson, that’s really important. I think he translates well in media, and that’s what a marketer is going to look for," Rowady said

HOME OF THE BRAVE: Rounding out the top three, Jason Heyward has more than fulfilled the tremendous expectations in his rookie season, emerging as the Braves' biggest star since the team's days as a perennial World Series contender. Heyward wasted no time, launching a three-run home run in his first big league game, and his quick ascent captured the eye of many of our panelists. "Talk about a hot start," said Team Epic's Grant. "The kid is slugging over .500 in his first few months, is built like a beast, and will likely be the power hitting guy of the future. Not much risk here." Baker Street's Dorfman was equally enthusiastic about Heyward, noting he "started with a bang,” and also cited his race as something that enhances his appeal. "He’s one of the few black players making a name for himself,” Dorfman said, “and is kind of carrying the torch for the African Americans who seem to be dwindling in baseball. Good-looking guy, well bred, hits the ball a mile and plays for a pretty celebrated franchise that always seems to be in or around the postseason.”

SI Cover At Age 16 One Of
Many Things Hyping Harper

YOUTH OF A NATION: Much like Strasburg's spot at No. 4 in our MLB-wide survey, Bryce Harper finishing fifth among under-25 baseball players shows perhaps a dearth of national marketing potential among the game's young talent. The Nationals last month drafted Harper to join Strasburg as the two faces of baseball in DC, and although the 17-year-old has yet to play a game as a professional, the hype makes him relevant to Madison Avenue. "In the context of how aware baseball fans, and by extension consumers, are of the next generation of players, I think there has been a certain amount of focus on him for a while," said IMG Global Consulting Managing Dir, Senior VP & Head David Abrutyn. "It’s not unlike a player who has come up through the college basketball ranks that people look at, or someone who developed in college football, who has been on the consumer and fan radar screen as someone to watch. He certainly fits that category, so if he’s able to realize the potential -- as Strasburg has -- you’d expect the built-in awareness of who he is will then lead to the ability to realize success in the off-field arena."

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