SBD/April 3, 2014/Marketing and Sponsorship

MLB Targets Female Fans With Co-Branded Hello Kitty Merchandise, Extends Licensing Deal

The Dodgers have been hosting Hello Kitty days at the ballpark since '12
MLB's merchandise deal with Tokyo-based Sanrio Inc.'s Hello Kitty brand "may seem a curious partnership, but it worked so well in its test phases," MLB has "extended its marketing deal" with the licensor, according to Susan Krashinsky of the GLOBE & MAIL. All 30 MLB teams "will be selling co-branded products including Hello Kitty baseballs and mobile phone covers." The partnership is "just one example of a growing contingent of marketers who are realizing the potential in female baseball fans," who now make up 46% of MLB’s fan base. MLB Senior VP/Licensing Howard Smith said, "There are a lot of women out there who want to support their teams, and they want to do it in their own unique, feminine, stylish way. It’s not going to stop. It’s going to grow and grow." Sanrio "first noticed the potential of baseball as a marketing vehicle" in '11, when one of its corporate execs in "baseball-mad Japan met a member" of the Dodgers organization. The company "soon began talks with the club, which hosted the first Hello Kitty Day" at Dodger Stadium. Hello Kitty "threw the ceremonial first pitch," and the team offered and sold out an allotment of "Hello Kitty tickets to the game, which came with a plush doll dressed in Dodgers Gear." Staff at Sanrio’s U.S. offices also "noticed that some fans were wearing unofficial 'bootleg shirts' that they had made featuring the cartoon character and their team logos." Sanrio Senior Dir of Brand Management & Marketing Dave Marchi said that the Hello Kitty brand "rarely uses traditional advertising" and instead "relies more heavily on social media and word of mouth" (GLOBE & MAIL, 4/3).
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