SBJ/January 26 - February 1, 2004/Marketingsponsorship

‘Spider-Man 2’ / MLB: Web marketing

Product integration could go to new extremes under a low-seven-figure sponsorship deal that Major League Baseball signed late last year with Sony Pictures. MLB and some of its teams will be helping the launch of "Spider-Man 2," set to premiere July 2.

MLB's Spider-Man campaign is to begin around Memorial Day. Some of the marketing integration under discussion includes trailers being shown on stadium video boards, s licensed giveaways, and Spider-Man images both on the bases and the screen behind home plate. It is unclear how many teams will be supporting the program.

One club that will definitely be on board is the Minnesota Twins, since their center fielder, Torii Hunter, sometimes goes by the nickname of "Spider-Man" because of his ability to climb walls in pursuit of high "flies." One club that won't is the Los Angeles Dodgers, since the Tinseltown franchise has rival studio Warner Bros. as an official sponsor. A cross-license combining MLB and Spider-Man images also seems likely.

SUPERBOWLING: More than 20 advertisers, among them a bevy of NFL sponsors, are on the superbowl.com site. Pepsi is presenting sponsor for its rookie of the year promo, while others include Cadillac, for Super Bowl MVP voting; H&R Block, for its "Block of the Year" promo; Sony's 989, which is showing video-game competitions between NFL players; Sony Pictures, pushing "Radio"; and MGM, pushing "Barbershop II." Other site partners include Visa, AOL, Coors, McDonald's, Motorola, IBM, Best Buy, Sam's Club and Wachovia.

On the content side, the site will feature video from the NFL Network and event coverage from Super Bowl week. A phalanx of superbowl.com analysts includes a pair of coaches looking for work, Jim Fassel and Dan Reeves.

Superbowl.com plus the NFL's other Internet sites got around 15 million unique visitors last January. With annual growth in Internet use and CBS promoting the site more than its rival network due to its relationship with SportsLine.com Inc., the NFL's Chris Russo said he's expecting a traffic spike of around 20 percent. Delaying that measurement will be the fact that site usage is generally measured by month and Super Bowl XXXVIII is on Feb. 1.

PFAREWELL, PALMEIRO ADS: Sources said Pfizer is close to renewing its 2-year-old sponsorship with Major League Baseball for its Viagra brand of erectile dysfunction medication. However, the new deal will not have a spokesman attached. Rafael Palmeiro appeared in TV ads for Viagra over the past two years while in pursuit of his 500th home run.

This year's MLB effort is said to focus more on brand building and less on boosting the association with baseball itself. Another source said Viagra had some interest in obtaining George Brett's service as a spokesman, but that deal never came to fruition.

THE SKYBOX IS FALLING: Maytag's Skybox

Need a drink? The Skybox is standing by.
refrigerator is probably the first such product made for living-room use. A sort of vending machine without need of coins, the $500 "personal beverage vendor" obviates that pesky trip to the kitchen for a cold one. Targeted to sports fans, the Skybox can be customized with front and side team panels via licenses with the NFL, some NASCAR drivers and NCAA teams.

Amazon.com is one early seller, though the site advises that it won't be available until after Sunday's Super Bowl. Home Depot will be another big retailer since Tony Stewart, who has licensed his name for the product, is sponsored by Home Depot. Relay Sports & Event Marketing, Chicago, assisted Maytag in negotiating sports licenses.

COMINGS & GOINGS: Veteran sports marketer Jon Schneider departs Upper Deck to form Sports & Stripes, a San Diego consultancy specializing in promotions, sponsorship and merchandising. ... Michael Neuman to Strategic Sports Group, New York, as vice president, group account director. He has been at Paragon/Ha-Lo's New York offices since they opened in 1999. ... The NBA continues to staff up in sales, adding Tim Shannehan as director of business development. He was with Sportvision.

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

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