SBJ/June 11-17, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

Local MLB TV deals give brand national platform

 For Subway CMO Tony Pace, one of the most efficient ways to make a national media buy is to go hyperlocal. And the best way for Subway to go hyperlocal is to attach its brand to local telecasts of MLB teams.

That’s why Pace — through Subway’s media buying agency MediaCom — cut a deal with the Fox Sports-owned sales unit Home Team Sports to advertise in the local telecasts for all 29 U.S.-based MLB teams. HTS sells national ads around MLB, NBA and NHL games for most regional sports networks, whether they are operated by Fox or not.

The yearlong deal is valued in the mid-seven-figure range. Though the ads will appear locally, the spend comes out of Subway’s national budget.

Photo by: CATALYST

KEY DECISION-MAKERS

Tony Pace, CMO, Subway

Martin Blich, Managing Partner, MediaCom

Kyle Sherman, Executive Vice President,
Home Team Sports

Stephen Ullman, Regional Vice President,
Home Team Sports

“Many of our local markets buy their local team,” Pace said. “But we thought there was an opportunity to weave together all of those relationships by working with the folks at Fox across all of the team relationships that they have. We look at it as an unwired network.”

The campaign will feature in-game and postgame activation. Subway also will be presenting sponsor of the FSN series “The Boys in the Hall.”

“To us it delivers the kind of national audience size that we want and it complements what our local markets are already doing,” Pace said.

The deal represents an increase in media spending for Subway. The brand is not cutting back on its national budget and had a big presence, in particular, during the NBA playoffs on ESPN and TNT.

But the deal also shows how Fox is trying to use its local markets to create a broadcast-style national network by grouping together all of the regional sports networks. The HTS pitch to Subway is that a deal would give national reach, while tapping into the passions of the local fan bases.

“Most people who own a local franchise can’t afford to buy 150 Yankee games,” said Stephen Ullman, regional vice president of strategic partnerships with HTS. “If you own 10 Subways inside Pittsburgh and Subway has an ad running on the ESPN Yankees-Red Sox game, how does that help you? It doesn’t help you at all. The guys that come into your store may watch ESPN, but nowhere near the amount of people who are wearing Penguins and Pirates hats.”

HTS has sold similar seasonlong national schedules to brands like Aflac, AT&T, Geico and MillerCoors. But what makes the Subway deal unique is an online aspect that attaches Subway to a dedicated part of FoxSports.com centered on “The Boys in the Hall,” which features profiles of current and future hall of famers, polls and fan forums. Subway’s brand also will be attached to elements around the series on Facebook and Twitter.

KEY DEAL POINTS


Subway buys ad time in local telecasts for all 29 U.S.-based MLB teams.

Cost is in the mid-seven-figure range.

Campaign features in-game and postgame activation.

Subway messaging gets integrated into FoxSports.com’s “The Boys in the Hall” series.

“We think that’s a perfect fit for one of our marketing approaches, which is this notion of ‘Where Winners Eat,’” Pace said. “We wouldn’t have gotten those kinds of things done if we just did local deals in the local markets.”

Subway’s local franchisees often buy time in local sports telecasts. This buy will not stop that from happening. In fact, HTS says Subway opts not to run national spots in specific markets where local franchises already have bought time.

HTS also promised to hold some of the national messaging out of telecasts where local franchises have bought a lot of spots. Ullman described it in similar terms as a broadcast network working with affiliates.

“There’s always national and local working in tandem, particularly in broadcast networks,” Ullman said.

The deal is focused on baseball. Pace said he has looked into extending it to the NBA and the NHL locally but has not made any moves yet.

“There are some peculiarities about what makes sense for us from a seasonality standpoint,” he said. “During the summertime, it’s the sport’s Sahara Desert in terms of how you reach big numbers of people. This was a great way to do that.”

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