SBJ/June 27 - July 3, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Chevrolet renews MLB deal; other sponsors step up

MLB heads into the All-Star break next month with some of its largest corporate sponsorships renewed, with one renewed incumbent partner also adding an important consumer category.

Chevrolet, an MLB corporate sponsor since 2005,­­­ has renewed its deal with the league, at least partially a payback for MLB granting it some degree of financial relief during the worst days of the recession. Chevy will continue as a sponsor of Sunday’s All-Star Game Selection Show on TBS, which is presented by Taco Bell. Chevy also is presenting sponsor of the MLB Network Red Carpet Show, which covers the All-Star Parade, an event created for Chevy in 2006, when the game was in Detroit.

“Terrific partner, iconic brand and obviously one with huge sway in the media market, so they really support our broadcast rights holders,” said Lou Koskovolis, MLB’s senior vice president of corporate sales and marketing.
Overall, Koskovolis said, more than 40 percent of the ad units sold for Fox’s broadcast of the July 12 All-Star Game were purchased by MLB sponsors (see related story).

Pepsi, an MLB sponsor since 1997, has also renewed for multiple years and expects to launch its Field of Dreams balloting program at the All-Star Game (SportsBusiness Journal, June 20-26 issue), an effort tied to its Pepsi Max zero-calorie cola.

Bayer, which has supported its One-A-Day Men’s Health Formula brand with MLB ties since 2008, has extended its MLB rights a year early, while also adding the pain-relief category in support of the recent launch of Bayer Advanced Aspirin, marketed as being “twice as fast” as the previous Extra Strength Bayer. To support its claims and new designation as the official pain reliever of MLB, Bayer is close to finalizing a platform that would tie its product to pitching speed. Some scattered behind-the-plate signage has already cropped up supporting the tie. A cause-related connection from Bayer is also in the works.

Taco Bell has media in and around the All-Star Game and supporting programming while serving as the sole sponsor of the event’s street pole banner ads in downtown Phoenix, host of this year’s festivities.

Anheuser-Busch, which renewed as part of a litigation settlement with MLB during the offseason, is leveraging its tie with appearances of its Clydesdale team, national and local media, and commemorative 16-ounce aluminum bottles.

With changing regulations eviscerating profits from the payment card category, a category Bank of America leveraged heavily against MLB in its six-plus years with the spo­­­rt, BofA’s renewal is taking more time. However, the bank is operating as if it will renew. With more than 120 bank branches in the market, BofA will stage a cause-related campaign dubbed Give Like An All-Star, encouraging fans to donate in support of the Back to School Clothing Drive, an Arizona nonprofit that the lender has supported for nearly a decade.

Sponsored gate premiums for the Midsummer Classic are a Taco Bell-branded ticket lanyard for All-Star Sunday; a State Farm lanyard for the Home Run Derby, which the company has title sponsored since 2007; and a logoed pin from Firestone for All-Star Game attendees.

Any discussion of MLB marketing this season inevitably centers on the league’s newly launched Fan Cave, a new-media petri dish in Greenwich Village (SportsBusiness Journal, May 2-8 issue). Having persuaded players, sponsors and other baseball business partners to visit and generate media content, a leading question has been how to keep the Fan Cave up to date and whether inhabitants Mike O’Hara and Ryan Wagner, in the midst of watching every MLB game this season, would travel to premier league events.

MLB is answering that by transforming Chase Field’s right-field swimming pool area into “Fan Cave West,” with the two baseball diehards appearing Monday and Tuesday.
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