SBD/March 17, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Utility Company To Sponsor Nats Prospect Bryce Harper's Minor League At Bats

Miss Utility inks deal to affiliate its brand with Harper while playing in Hagerstown
Maryland’s Miss Utility system will sponsor Nationals prospect C Bryce Harper's at-bats for the Single-A Hagerstown Suns this season, according to Dan Steinberg of the WASHINGTON POST. The Suns will regularly announce, "Now batting, Bryce Harper, brought to you by Miss Utility, reminding you to call 811 before you dig" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 3/16). Miss Utility Dir of Marketing Matt Ruddo said, “It’s just not possible to sponsor a player’s at bats at the Major League level, and even if it were, it would probably be out of our price range as a safety organization with a limited budget.” NBCWASHINGTON.com’s Sarah Schorno Kogod noted fans “can’t blame the non-profit for jumping at the opportunity, something they wouldn’t normally get a chance to do.” Brand names have “infiltrated just about every part of professional sports, but sponsoring a player’s actions is something that is usually untainted” (NBCWASHINGTON.com, 3/16). ESPN.com's Michael Smith said, "This is so lame. If Albert Pujols were getting his live at-bats sponsored, I would have a problem, with it let alone a kid who hasn't done anything other than getting drafted No. 1 overall." But ESPN.com's Jackie MacMullen said, "You can say it's lame, but you got to admit it's creative. ... Pretty soon, someone will be sponsoring his helmet and his gloves and his baseball bat" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 3/16).

BRACING FOR BRYCE: In Maryland, Bob Parasiliti reported the Suns have received “calls for tickets and from people looking for information” about Harper since it was announced last Saturday he would begin the season with the club. Suns GM Bill Farley said, “We are getting a lot of response. Our ticketing has been really busy. Usually the early season is hard for attendance. We have a ton of games in May and with (Harper) here, it will help push us over the top.” Parasiliti noted the team’s staff is “crossing its fingers against any change of course for Harper and resisting pulling out all the merchandising stops” until he is actually with the Suns. Suns co-Owner Bruce Quinn: “When he gets on the field here, we will start printing everything to have it ready for the home opener.” Farley added, “We want to make sure he is coming for sure. The merchandising will be huge. Everything has been ordered. We are just waiting to see before putting it in motion.” Farley said that “high on the priority list are Suns jerseys and T-shirts bearing Harper’s name” (Hagerstown HERALD-MAIL, 3/15).
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