SBJ/March 19-25, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

Japanese sponsors plan for MLB

Japanese sponsors are finalizing marketing activation plans for the Oakland A’s-Seattle Mariners opening series in Japan later this month.

The A’s and Mariners will play each other March 28-29 at the Tokyo Dome, and the series marks the first time Ichiro Suzuki has played in his native Japan as a member of the Mariners, although he has played there on an MLB touring team and in the World Baseball Classic.

“Having Ichiro playing in Japan where he is one of the country’s biggest celebrities makes this special, and the Mariners’ Japanese ownership makes this unique,” said Paul Archey, MLB senior vice president of international business operations, adding that “nearly every” Mariners game is televised in Japan. “We’re also playing these games around a year after the [earthquake/tsunami] disaster of last year, and we will certainly pay tribute to that as part of this.”

Noting that two games sold out in two hours or less, and pointing to the addition of Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish to the Texas Rangers and next year’s World Baseball Classic, Archey said MLB’s international business was stronger than ever on all fronts.

As always, MLB teams playing overseas will wear sponsor logos on uniforms. Gloops is hardly a household name in the U.S., but the Japanese social game developer is the title sponsor of the series. Both the A’s and Mariners will wear a Gloops logo on their batting helmets, the A’s will wear a Gloops shoulder patch and the company is sponsoring the MVP award for each game.

Boeing is another sponsor and will have a patch on the Mariners uniforms. Other sponsors include Japanese convenience store Lawson as the official ticket distributor, Sato Pharmaceutical, Itoham and Sankyo.

MLB International sells the rights to Yomiuri, the company that promotes the games and sells the tickets and sponsorship deals in Japan.

The two teams will also play exhibitions versus the Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants at the Tokyo Dome.

Along with local TV rights holders in the Oakland and Seattle markets, MLB Network will be televising the games — “slightly delayed” at 6 a.m. ET, and again in prime time those evenings.

This will mark the fourth season opener in Japan and the first since the Red Sox and A’s played in 2008 at the Tokyo Dome. Since 1999, the Rockies, Padres, Mets, Cubs, Rangers, Blue Jays, Yankees, Rays, Red Sox and A’s have all participated in international openers. The games will count as home games for the A’s.

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