SBJ/June 20 - 26, 2005/Marketingsponsorship

Taco Bell hungry for MLB

Halfway through its three-year sponsorship deal, Taco Bell is so pleased with its relationship with Major League Baseball that it’s already thinking of a renewal.

“We love baseball, because it is something that dependably pulls people to TV in the summer, which is our main communication vehicle,” said Greg Creed, Taco Bell’s CMO. “We’ve had strong sales since we signed on with MLB, and while it’s hard to pull apart those numbers, we believe baseball was a key part.”

Taco Bell has been active in MLB since signing on in June 2004.
Taco Bell became the official quick-service restaurant of MLB in June 2004, and activated for the rest of the season. This year, the site of MLB’s All-Star Game next month is driving much of the brand’s execution; Taco Bell has more than 100 restaurants in Detroit. Local store crews will be wearing All-Star caps, and some point-of-sale material should be evident.

Activation plans for Detroit include a reprise of the televised stunt from last year, in which a randomly selected fan at the park won $1 million for throwing five baseballs from the pitching mound through a 25-inch hole in a Taco Bell sign next to home plate. All within 30 seconds. This year the fan will be picked from entries around the MLB FanFest.

Along with TV ads and virtual signs on Fox’s All-Star broadcast, Taco Bell will become presenting sponsor of ESPN “Sunday Night Baseball” in the third quarter.

While the two brands seem disparate, that may be why the combination works.

“They’ve brought MLB to a younger demo and brought a little bit of attitude to MLB,” said John Brody, MLB’s senior vice president of corporate sales and marketing. “Everything they’ve done with us is a little bit left of center, and that’s something we could use a little of.”

Brody noted the ticket lanyard Taco Bell will give away on the Sunday before the All-Star Game, fashioned after restaurant hot sauce packs, each one of which features humorous “sauce pack wisdom.” The one on the Detroit lanyard states “cleats scare me.”

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