SBD/July 11, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

State Farm Hopes New Format Revives HR Derby; Gold Balls Worth $18K Each For Charity

After a down year for the Home Run Derby in '10, marketers at title sponsor State Farm are hopeful that some tweaks to the competition will catalyze a revival. Last year's event in Anaheim failed to sell out and saw an ESPN ratings decline of 22%. This season, Red Sox DH David Ortiz and Brewers 1B Prince Fielder, named "captains" of the two teams by virtue of winning the past two derbies, got to pick their teammates for the competition. Ortiz selected Red Sox 1B Adrian Gonzalez, Yankees 2B Robinson Cano and Blue Jays RF Jose Bautista, who leads MLB with 31 home runs. On the NL side, Fielder tabbed Brewers 2B Rickie Weeks, Cardinals LF Matt Holliday and Dodgers CF Matt Kemp. "We all think that the captains picking should add excitement and enthusiasm to the event, with more of an NL/AL rivalry featured," said State Farm Ad Dir Ed Gold, whose company has title sponsored the Home Run Derby since '07. The insurer will have six ads in tonight's event, along with massive branding on the field and throughout the three-hour ESPN telecast. Gold said that since State Farm began sponsoring the Home Run Derby, it has seen increases in various brand metrics, along with annual sales spikes after the event. "Its been a powerful branding play," he said, "and the great thing about it [is] that on Monday, it's the only major sporting event. Nothing really competes with it, so we get to stand alone for a night" (Terry Lefton, THE DAILY).

GOING FOR GOLD: YAHOO SPORTS’ Kevin Kaduk noted the gold baseballs that will be used “during portions” of the Home Run Derby are “standard-sized Rawlings that feature one leather panel that has been infused with 24-karat gold.” The baseballs “will be trotted out when each slugger is down to his final out in each round.” The Boys & Girls Clubs of America will benefit from the promotion, as MLB and State Farm "will donate a combined $18,000 to the charity for each gold ball that goes for a homer.” Kaduk: “It may not be in the same neighborhood as introducing metal bats to the competition … but I think it’s a fun little gimmick” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/7).

NO STARS FOR PINSTRIPES: In N.Y., George King III reported All-Stars from the Yankees and Rays “did not wear hats with stars on them” during Saturday’s game, unlike All-Stars from other teams. MLB introduced “the idea to raise awareness about Tuesday night’s All-Star Game in Phoenix and asked teams to participate.” King noted it is believed Yankees SS Derek Jeter "did not want to show up his non-All Star teammates by wearing the stars, and when the captain went that way the others followed” (N.Y. POST, 7/10).

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