SBJ/April 24 - 30, 2006/This Weeks News

MLB Road Show adds a two-step twist

MLB Properties has hit the road for the fourth installment of its annual Road Show tour, and this year, the event is going a little bit country.

Road Show stops will include the CMA Music
Festival (below) and Vans Warped Tour, which
has featured acts such as Senses Fail (bottom).
Having become a summertime staple of hard rock and alternative music festivals, the MLB Road Show will bring its traveling “cyber ballpark” to the four-day CMA Music Festival in Nashville in June, joining stops at the now-ongoing Virgin College Mega Tour, Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, and Vans Warped Tour.

The cyber ballpark is housed in a 53-foot trailer and includes video game and Internet kiosks, batting and pitching cages, and space for band members to meet with fans. It also serves as a showcase for MLBP’s Authentic Collection of merchandise.

As in prior years, the Road Show aims to expose the MLB brand to the 16-25 age group, reach out to non-core fans, and position baseball as a trend-setting property. All told, this year’s Road Show is expected to make about 90 stops, marking a 20 percent increase from last year, said Steve Armus, MLBP vice president of licensing. The CMA dates were added after examining the growing interest in country music and the strong demographics and buying power the event’s audience possesses.

“The country audience is right in our wheelhouse from a number of angles,” Armus said. “We always said we wanted to expand out the scope of this initiative and get into more forms of music, so for this event, we figured, ‘Let’s give it a shot.’”

Last year’s CMA Music Festival drew an event-record 145,000 fans and is one of the marquee events for the entire music industry. Highlights from the last two CMA Music Festivals have been featured in network TV specials.

MLBP is committing a low seven-figure sum to conduct this year’s Road Show, primarily through the purchase of sponsorships to the various festivals. That cost, however, is largely defrayed through sponsorship funds committed to MLB by Champs Sports, this year’s retail partner for the Road Show, replacing Foot Locker, and mainstay Authentic Collection licensees New Era and Majestic Athletic.

Champs, which will provide floor space dedicated to the Authentic Collection and promotional support, returns as the Road Show retail partner after servicing the debut national tour in 2003. Finish Line handled the retail partner role in 2004; Foot Locker did last year.

Armus said Champs’ return was based primarily on the better demographic fit of the company’s retail customers and those attending the concerts.

On the Vans Warped Tour, MLBP will sponsor the Vagrant Records stage and has formed a direct relationship with the record label, which is popular among the skateboarding and punk rock crowds. Various bands on the Vagrant Records label will help judge entries in a New Era hat design contest. In addition, Senses Fail, one of the more prominent Vagrant acts, will accompany winners of a Champs-sponsored sweepstakes to attend Games 3-5 of this year’s World Series.

“I think some of our fans were a little confused about this at first when it first came out we were entering a relationship with baseball,” said Wayne Pighini, Vagrant Records head of marketing. “But MLB came to us through the Warped Tour with the idea of working together, and it made a lot of sense. The band [Senses Fail] has some huge baseball fans, particularly [lead singer] Buddy [Nielsen], and promotional opportunities like this don’t always come along. Just as for baseball, this also gives us a chance to broaden our demo.”

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