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Published March 12, 2007
More than any sport, baseball is a game of precedents and antecedents.
Not so long ago, the sport's foreign sponsorship revenue was alarmingly close to that of domestic marketing partners. Since 2003, rights fees and contractual media spending obligations from Major League Baseball sponsors has more than doubled.
Brands such as GM, Home Depot, Taco Bell, Wheaties and Holiday Inn have signed on. Surely, some sponsorship interest must be generated by the robust health of the game itself, which has seen growth in every measure of commercial activity push revenue to a record $5.2 billion in 2006.
For those who remember when MLB national sponsorship seemed less than priority — the league was even without a senior sponsorship executive from 1999 to 2004 — the activation afforded recently by MLB's partners is a revelation. All that has occurred on the watch of Tim Brosnan, executive vice president of business, and John Brody, senior vice president of corporate sales and marketing. Brosnan brought Brody back to MLB in 2004 after Brody had left for a two-year stint as executive vice president and chief marketing officer for the Boston Celtics.
Brody is quick to credit his success to what goes on between the white lines. Still, he acknowledges that the game played at MLB's Park Avenue offices has changed considerably since his initial go-round began in 1998.
"We went from answering the phone and booking deals to starting with research and designing partnerships where the dollars and the marketing exposure grew because it really is in the best interests of both sides," Brody said.
MLB partners agree.
"[Brody] has a fundamental understanding of his property and your business, and he's got the skills and diplomacy to make them both work hard for both parties," said Tony Schiller, a partner with Paragon Marketing Group, Skokie, Ill., which represents MLB second-year sponsor Intercontinental Hotels.
Added John Slusher, Nike vice president, sports marketing, Asia Pacific and Americas: "Lots of properties say ?no' automatically. John does his best to say ?yes,' which means you can get the business results you want from leveraging MLB as a property."
MLB has always had fewer assets to offer potential sponsors than any national sports property. Brody and his peers at MLB have done a credible job of creating inventory to attract and keep sponsors, things such as "Latino Legends" for Chevrolet or Gillette's Father's Day prostate cancer awareness platform, or the late-season "Hometown Heroes" program that DHL sponsored last year.
With its sponsors buying hard against those efforts, the league's influence over, and income derived from, its national broadcast rights agreements are at record levels.
"One of the first things I learned here was that you can sell for today or build for tomorrow," Brody said.
With three Forty Under 40 awards under his belt, Brody is proof that when it comes to all things Major League Baseball, the long-term approach is always best.
— Terry Lefton