SBJ/Dec. 6-12, 2010/This Week's Issue

BDA extends deal as MLB’s premium merchandise agency

Bensussen Deutsch & Associates has extended the agreement making it MLB’s premium merchandise agency of choice for an additional four years. 

When it was signed in 2007, the MLB deal was the first in a series of large sports property agreements for the Seattle-based premium merchandise agency. Subsequent to its MLB deal, BDA has solidified its position across sports, with alliances making it the official promotional agency of NASCAR and the NCAA’s preferred premium vendor, along with similar relationships with the NFL and U.S. Olympic Committee.

Under its MLB agreement, BDA doesn’t provide all premium merchandise for sponsors and clubs, but it does approve and manage the process for the league. Howard Smith, MLB’s senior vice president of licensing, said he made the original agreement somewhat reluctantly, thinking various licensees could supply premium merchandise, but since has changed his mind.

“When I got here, I thought it was important to upgrade premiums as a means of controlling our brand,” said Smith, who started at MLB in 1998. “What we learned was that premiums are never a priority for [retail] licensees and they are a real passion for BDA. Their sourcing capabilities are unbelievable against any kind of product, and we’ve had no issues with quality control and they manage our brand as well as we do. And a focus on innovation is just part of their corporate culture.”

Company CEO and co-founder Jay Deutsch said the league affiliations helped BDA have its best year ever, both in terms of revenue and number of premium promotions. “Hopefully, this is validation that our model works,” he said, noting that BDA activated with every MLB corporate sponsor this past season. “The leagues are seeing the value we can bring, so we get to sit down with brands and their agencies at the outset to design these programs. That’s the place we want to be.”

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