SBJ/April 1-7, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

MLB sponsors step to plate for new season

Some of MLB’s biggest sponsors are rolling out new activation as the league opens its season this week.

Anheuser-Busch, which is the presenting sponsor of opening week, will support its league rights and its 23 club deals with team-branded cans of Budweiser in those markets and cans bearing MLB’s silhouetted batter elsewhere. A total of 130 million Budweiser 12-ounce cans will carry MLB team or league logos, while outfield signage in about 20 MLB parks will depict the MLB-themed cans.

Budweiser has rolled out an MLB-branded can.
A-B will tag TV ads, have in-stadium announcements and provide wholesalers with point-of-sale materials using the “opening week” tag. In addition, pop-up “build-a-bars” for Opening Day festivities are being placed outside parks in Arlington, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Los Angeles around the Dodgers, Pittsburgh and A-B’s hometown of St. Louis.

“We’re trying to make Opening Day a bigger occasion,” said Blaise D’Sylva, vice president of media, sports and entertainment marketing at Anheuser-Busch.

Procter & Gamble’s Head & Shoulders brand is activating around a new MLB spokesman. Los Angeles Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson replaces Minnesota’s Joe Maurer in ads from Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, for a new brand extension: Head & Shoulders with Old Spice. An associated marketing initiative has P&G donating $1 to MLB’s Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program for every strikeout (or, “whiff”) during the season.

Last year, there were more than 36,000 strikeouts across MLB.

Ad buys in some MLB markets include integration for Whiff of the Game and the Season of the Whiff. As a buildup to MLB’s All-Star Game at Citi Field in New York, there will be a Head & Shoulders ad wrap of the No. 7 subway train, which connects midtown Manhattan to Citi Field.

The big news for MLB sponsor Scotts is a baseball program with Wal-Mart, which is trying to upgrade its lawn and garden department to compete with the likes of Home Depot and Lowe’s.

A program called Ultimate Home Field Advantage across all 3,800 U.S. Wal-Mart locations includes Scotts’ MLB-branded point-of-sale displays. Twenty MLB-themed “retail-tainment” events will be part of the program, including batting cages in front of stores. The refurbishment of baseball fields in six markets is also planned, an element tied to Wal-Mart’s sponsorship of the coming Jackie Robinson film, “42.”

Opening Day sees Scotts backing a remote broadcast of the “Mike & Mike In The Morning” ESPN Radio show at the MLB Fan Cave in New York City. A presence also will occur in Cincinnati, which will include Scotts Spring Carpet: a Reds-themed grass and flower display in the city’s Fountain Square.

Early indicators from teams in the country’s top market are encouraging. The domestic auto industry’s recovery has fueled an uptick of seven figures in ad sales at YES Network, said Howard Levinson, senior vice president of ad sales. Last season’s 3.92 average game rating was the first time Yankees ratings averaged below a 4.0 since 2003. However, Levinson said that even after a record sales season for Yankees’ broadcasts in 2012, YES is budgeting for an increase.

At the Mets’ RSN, SportsNet NY, the auto category has helped boost sales 5 percent from a year ago, network President Steve Raab said.

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