SBJ/April 25 - May 1, 2005/Marketingsponsorship

Minor expansion: MLB adds 122 ballparks to all-star voting

Major League Baseball is expanding its All-Star Game balloting for the July 12 event at Detroit’s Comerica Park to include a total of 122 Class AAA, Class AA and Class A minor league teams from April 21 through June 27.

Such a move would represent an incremental 2.2 million ballots added to what is already sports’ biggest all-star balloting program. If you are scoring at home, it means every state except for Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming will have in-park balloting — and we’re sure there are Wal-Mart stores in those states to handle the disenfranchised.

As was the case last year, Ameriquest will sponsor all in-park voting, where 25 million ballots will be distributed, while Pepsi and the Pepsi-owned Frito-Lay division will support a retail effort at Wal-Mart that will deliver 20 million ballots. A sweepstakes overlay on the Ameriquest ballot offers the winner the prize of attending the All-Star Game with MLB greats Cal Ripken Jr. and Jack Morris. Ballots also will be distributed offshore in Curacao, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Panama, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.

Pepsi and Frito-Lay are supporting the Wal-Mart balloting effort for the All-Star Game (right); Ameriquest has in-park voting.
The All-Star Game balloting runs from early May until late June.

Meanwhile, MLB has sold local-level sponsorship packages for the All-Star Game and the concomitant John Hancock FanFest to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Comcast, Dow Chemical and Hewlett-Packard. Dow Chemical is sponsoring the World of Baseball exhibit at FanFest and gets an ad in the All-Star Game program, while H-P is pushing printers via a Game Saving Catch exhibit, where fans can have a photo taken and printed of them ostensibly preventing a home run.

RETIRED, BUT ACTIVE: Former Detroit Lions great Barry Sanders hasn’t carried a ball on an NFL field in years, but the league’s third-highest all-time rusher still has a lot of marketing yardage left. As proof, we offer a pair of national TV spots in the works from Gatorade and DirecTV.

The forthcoming Gatorade ad from Element 79 Partners of Chicago uses mostly game footage to deliver its message of milestones. It features Michael Jordan (most scoring titles), Nolan Ryan (most no-hitters), Jennie Finch (most no-hitters with a ponytail), Sanders (most NCAA yards in one season) and the University of California Golden Bears in the infamous “band on the field” play against Stanford in 1982 (most NCAA yards in one play).

Sanders also has a shoot scheduled later for a DirecTV ad with Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.

Sanders’ marketing reps at Pro Access, of Miami, would not comment on the forthcoming ads. As for the enduring marketability of an athlete who retired more than five years ago?

“He’s a recognizable hall of famer with a record of individual accomplishment who’s 36 years old,” said Pro Access Partner Jeff Bernstein. “That makes him unique, and unique is always saleable.”

With Super Bowl XL in Detroit, Sanders is likely to have a lot offers coming his way. National brands including Reebok, Ford and Pepsi did marketing campaigns tied to his Hall of Fame induction last year.

A related note to those equating the widely distributed pictures of Barry Bonds’ son wearing a Sanders jersey with the notion that the San Francisco Giants slugger will retire prematurely and with a major record in sight, like Sanders: Bonds’ son was wearing the Sanders jersey because Pro Access represents both clients.

FEATHERING HIS NEST: Speaking of retired NFL players: While we like the new foam mattresses, pillows and mattress covers being touted by former Miami Dolphins quarterback

Soon-to-be hall of famer Dan Marino can rest easy knowing he got an equity stake in exchange for his name on Sleep Innovations products.
Dan Marino in an out-of-the-box deal, what really impressed us was the deal’s structure, which is similarly atypical. Marino, who says his wife was buying Sleep Innovations foam products long before he sought an endorsement, received equity as part of his deal. Since demand for Marino’s marketing muscle will grow with him entering the Hall of Fame on Aug. 7, could this be a template for future deals?

“We’re looking for companies he can grow with more than anything else,” said Ralph Stringer, Marino’s longtime agent, adding with a smile that the slippers being produced with Sleep Innovations foam shouldn’t conflict with any possible athletic footwear deals. Stringer is hopeful of fashioning a Sleep Innovations event around the Hall of Fame induction.

“Every retired football player has problems sleeping,” he said.

HERE & THERE: Brian Cupps joins Reebok as director of basketball marketing. He had been And 1’s sports marketing director for the past 2½ years. … Spotted by Passage Events’ Larry Weil at the recent home opener of the Los Angeles Angels was a poignant commentary on the team’s current nomenclature dilemma. A fan wore a T-shirt with “L.A.F.D.” (fire department) on the front and “Los Angeles Fire Department of Anaheim” on the back. We assume that was an unlicensed product.

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

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