SBJ/May 20 - 26, 2002/Marketingsponsorship

It's a grand old flag on MLB's Memorial Day promo

Given baseball's legendary, if not necessarily accurate, status as the national pastime, it's probably appropriate that Major League Baseball was the first big sports property to exploit commercially the country's newfound fascination with all things red, white and blue post-9/11.

With Memorial Day approaching, MLB has fashioned a patriotic-themed retail promo tied to on-field activities that should again juice sales of apparel that carries a combination of baseball and flag logos. All of MLB's teams will celebrate Memorial Day with the return of flag-decorated caps from cap maker New Era. Bases will also carry a patriotic version of MLB's familiar silhouetted batter logo, as will balls and lineup cards. These items will be signed by star players and given to winners of sweepstakes in the 10 markets and 600 Foot Locker stores where the promotion is taking place.

The promo garners MLB's licensees a huge incremental buy from Foot Locker and gets MLB windows and interior displays at the 600 participating Foot Locker stores. The remaining Foot Lockers will carry a smaller MLB display and an array of MLB-licensed products.

The fact that this promotion is with Foot Locker, the country's biggest sports specialty retailer, should tell you all you need to know about whether the industry thinks licensed athletic apparel is back in vogue. Many Foot Lockers dropped licensed apparel entirely over the last few years.

"We're very healthy," said MLB licensing czar Howard Smith, "and we're much happier helping retailers do real marketing than watching them all do buy-one, get-one deals," a standard practice over the last few years at athletic specialty retailers.

FRANCO STILL PITCHING: Some four weeks before it was discovered that John Franco has what may be a career-ending elbow injury, the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut Ford Dealers Association

John Franco is off the field after an injury but still in play as a spokesman.
signed the Mets' reliever to do TV and radio ads. While the injury could leave Franco permanently stuck 56 saves behind the major league record, and the ads have not yet been shot, the elbow problem has not dissuaded the dealer co-op from keeping the 41-year-old Met as spokesman.

Franco will pitch an ambitious "Take Me Out for a Test Drive" summer promotion that backs the launch of the restyled Ford Expedition luxury SUV. Beginning in mid- to late June, consumers taking Expedition test drives will receive four tickets to the Mets' Aug. 5 game versus the Arizona Diamondbacks. The dealers hope to distribute 10,000 tickets. Franco will do TV tags for existing Expedition spots and radio ads, with The Gallagher Group of Tarrytown, N.Y., handling those chores.

Since the relaunch of the Expedition is one of Ford's most important marketing initiatives this year, the 237-dealer association is expected to convert all of its considerable in-game Mets and Yankees advertising inventory to the promotion for five to six weeks. Ford regional brand manager Dave Ludwigson said the target for the Expedition (25-54 years old, outdoorsy, athletically inclined males) was a good match with baseball. An oversized Franco trading card will be given to fans at the Aug. 5 game, and cars will be on display at Shea Stadium during "Expedition Day." An accompanying trade schmooze includes an opportunity for dealers to take batting practice at Shea.

HERE & THERE: Jen Jacobsen, senior director of marketing partnerships at the NBA, to The Arnell Group, N.Y.

ESPN has adjusted some editorial elements in its Adidas-sponsored site covering the World Cup tourney after some pressure from Yahoo!, which does FIFA's official World Cup site. Adidas was using some FIFA intellectual property it has rights to use in off-line advertising but not on the Web, because of Yahoo!'s rights. Now off the site is a composite Adidas/ESPN logo that could have led viewers to conclude it was an official site. The use of the World Cup trophy in ads and a typeface that FIFA has been using in World Cup promotional material also has been abandoned.

Peter Caparis to Scott Boras' Impact Marketing as executive vice president of sales and marketing, based in Irvine, Calif. Caparis, a 15-year Coke marker, was last with Mattel as vice president of global customer development.

Attempting to branch out from its core sports memorabilia business, Steiner Sports is selling photos signed by former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Yankees skipper Joe Torre. Cast members of "The Sopranos" also will sign memorabilia for Steiner to sell under a recent deal.

MBNA will leverage its MLB ties by giving away 10,000 All-Star-themed bobbleheads to consumers signing up for its MLB affinity credit cards at the midsummer classic. Team Beans, Montclair, N.J., is the supplier.

Terry Lefton can be reached at tlefton@amcity.com.

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