SBJ/April 11 - 17, 2005/Marketingsponsorship

XM loads up on teams to back MLB deal

XM Satellite Radio is leveraging its 11-year, $650 million MLB rights deal with as many as 10 team deals and hopes to eventually land a dozen teams this year.

A new XM Satellite Radio ad depicts fans from teams the company is sponsoring, plus endorser Cal Ripken Jr. (right).
Team sponsorships already completed include those with the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, New York Mets, New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants, Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Philadelphia Phillies. Fans of those teams are depicted in XM’s first MLB-themed TV ad, which broke recently and includes Cal Ripken Jr., the service’s first MLB endorser.

XM’s team deals include some scoreboard, rotational and, in a few cases, outfield signs. Terms were not available. Some local media was included, but in-stadium marketing is paramount. Nationally, a daily print ad has been running next to USA Today’s MLB box scores.

Activation at the dozen or so MLB parks will emphasize sampling. Retail offers will be distributed as coupons and in program ads, as mailings to season-ticket holders, and as part of in-venue handouts — all designed to drive consumers to retailers such as Circuit City and Best Buy or mass merchants like Wal-Mart and Target and smaller independents.

XM will also do broadcasts for “Home Plate,” its all-MLB channel, in and around baseball parks, and will look to sell hardware and subs on site.

At various parks, fans will win XM hardware and yearlong subscriptions. Earlier, XM sampled and ran TV in Florida and Arizona, hoping to target visitors to MLB spring training.

XM had a sign at the spring training home of the Cubs in Arizona.
At retail, XM is readying all of its point-of-sale material to include MLB messaging with large aisle displays.

“MLB strategy is something we think will really increase our subscriber base,” said XM President and CEO Hugh Panero. “Overall, this business is about content, like MLB and commercial-free music; the hardware, because we want to make our technology the best and most accessible; and distribution, where we have important carmakers like GM and Honda.

“But you really have to appreciate how much different it is selling someone a satellite radio through a car dealer than it is selling it to them through an electronics retailer. Whoever does all of these things right will get the most customers.”

With GM now an MLB sponsor for its Chevrolet brand, this year’s All-Star Game in Detroit will present some unique opportunities for XM. GM is responsible for more than a million XM subscribers and is expected to factory-install an additional million XM radios in its cars by the end of 2005.

“We’ve got another 10 years to get all this right,” said Panero. “So, I think we’ll be OK.”

The Marketing Arm’s Millsport is XM’s sports marketing firm.

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