SBJ/July 1-7, 2013/Events and Attractions

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  • Mets, MLB prep for All-Star

    On most days, the New York Mets operate in the shadow of the neighboring, more popular Yankees. Such comparisons will be a prominent factor for the 2013 MLB All-Star Game, as well.

    This year’s game is scheduled for July 16 at the Mets’ Citi Field. The 2008 game, held at the old Yankee Stadium in its final year, in many ways redefined the scale of what baseball’s midsummer classic could be as an event, setting many league business records — including $148.4 million in local economic impact — that still stand.

    Apple statues have been placed throughout the city.
    Photo by: MLB PHOTOS
    But even with the game being back in New York just five years later, marking the quickest return to a market for the event in more than seven decades, MLB and Mets officials are focused on giving this year’s game a distinct, unique feel.

    “You never want to repeat yourself, and with the setting of Citi Field, we’ve tried to come up with unique ways to do different things,” said Marla Miller, MLB senior vice president of special events.

    Some elements of All-Star Week can’t help but be duplicated, such as the return of FanFest to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, New York’s main convention hall, and the resumption of shuttle buses to help move fans and VIPs around the disparately located All-Star events in Manhattan and Queens. MLB will once again hold a free concert at Central Park (July 13), this time with the New York Philharmonic and Long Island native Mariah Carey. Additionally, 35 apple statues placed around New York, inspired by the Mets’ Home Run Apple, recall the Statues on Parade program conducted with the Yankees in 2008 and reconstituted in local fashion in six other All-Star host cities in recent years. Some of this year’s locations match the sites from five years ago, as well.

    RELATED STORY: MLB sponsors go big with All-Star activation

    But the route for the annual Red Carpet Parade has been shifted from a southward path on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan in 2008 to a westward direction along 42nd Street this year, starting not far from Times Square. The All-Star 5K run has been moved from its traditional Sunday morning time slot to a Saturday scheduling, and it will benefit Hurricane Sandy relief efforts instead of its prior dedication to fighting cancer. MLB also will be able to stage its All-Star sponsor zone in the Citi Field parking lot, something not possible with the tighter confines of old Yankee Stadium.

    The MLB Fan Cave, located in New York’s Greenwich Village, did not exist in 2008. It will be an additional component of this year’s All-Star festivities, particularly in the week preceding the game.

    One other benefit of being back in New York so soon is the opportunity to work a second time with the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, which already possessed a deep familiarity with the All-Star Game. MLB and the city did not formally announce the Citi Field game until just 14 months ago, an unusually short lead time for All-Star Game host cities. But efforts to bring the event back to New York began well before then, and negotiations occurred with many of the same city officials as in 2008.

    City officials are projecting nearly $200 million in local economic impact for this year’s All-Star Game, a sum more than three times what was generated in Kansas City a year ago and by far a new event record. To get there, though, there likely will need to be improvements in both the ticket market and corporate-level travel for the event. Five years ago, a Yankees season-ticket base of more than 38,000 full-season equivalents help pushed the All-Star Game ticket resale market into a frenzy, with full strip prices routinely exceeding $1,200 and VIPs scrambling to find non-bleacher seats.

    Citi Field, with a capacity of less than 43,000 for the All-Star Game events, is more than 12,000 seats smaller than that facility, and the Mets have a season-ticket base roughly half as large as the Yankees did in 2008. With the Mets also not carrying the same local cachet as the Yankees, All-Star ticket demand is softer this year, and full-strip tickets (which provide access to multiple All-Star events) can be easily obtained on the secondary market for less than $800.

    “I’m not seeing the same kind of awareness for this event as five years ago,” said Robert Tuchman, president of Goviva, a New York-based event travel company. “There definitely was more buzz leading up to this in ’08. Maybe it goes back to the Yankees-Mets thing, or the last year of [Yankee Stadium]. But it’s almost like there’s been more buzz for the Super Bowl,” he said, looking ahead to the NFL’s Feb. 2 game at nearby MetLife Stadium.

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  • MLB sponsors go big with All-Star activation

    Chevrolet and new MLB partner T-Mobile will be the most aggressive sponsor activators around the four days of MLB All-Star Game activities in New York City.

    Festivities begin July 13 with the All-Star 5K & Fun Run in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, for which MLB is hoping for 10,000 runners. The activities continue that night with a free New York Philharmonic and Mariah Carey concert in Central Park, for which 60,000 people are expected, building to the Home Run Derby, with Chevrolet as title sponsor, on Monday night and Tuesday’s game.

    What Chevy’s officials were calling their biggest All-Star activation to date is backing relaunches of the automaker’s Impala sedan and the Silverado pickup truck. Chevy will have a huge media presence, with its usual presenting sponsorship of one of sports’ best sponsor integration efforts — the ninth annual Red Carpet Parade, in which All-Stars will be chauffeured through midtown Manhattan in Silverados, televised on MLB Network. Chevy also is presenting sponsor of the “Baseball Tonight” show airing just before the Home Run Derby, and of the Fox All-Star Game pregame show, during which it will debut a Silverado TV ad.

    On the ground, Chevy will supply the pace car at the Fun Run and offer test drives outside the MLB Fan Fest, where inside it will display vehicles. Outside host Citi Field, Chevy will have a test track within the MLB sponsor zone. Cars will be awarded to the winners of the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game MVP award by Chevy, which picked up title sponsorship this year after the departure of State Farm.

    As always, the imperative is cutting through the clutter for sponsors, and no market is as cluttered with marketing noise and entertainment options as New York City.

    “The magnitude of New York makes it tougher to break through, so we have to do a lot and make it big, which makes the sponsor commitment a real imperative,” said Tim Brosnan, MLB executive vice president of business.

    The centerpiece of T-Mobile’s new three-year MLB sponsorship is an on-field communications system through which the carrier will eventually get cellphones to replace corded headsets when MLB managers call their bullpens. The system has been in testing with the Seattle Mariners for a month but is not yet ready for prime time.

    “When the system is game ready, we’ll debut it,” said Mike Belcher, T-Mobile vice president of media and sponsorships. “Our plan is to do that in the second half [of the season].”

    However, there will be no shortage of All-Star Game activation from T-Mobile, which is sponsoring the Fan Fest, debuting a TV ad with Los Angeles Dodger Adrian Gonzalez, running promos at its retail locations offering Fan Fest tickets and All-Star Game merchandise as giveaways and premiums, and holding retail player appearances. T-Mobile will dominate the Fan Fest entrance with a large marquee, and the mobile carrier’s customers will have a separate entrance.

    Head & Shoulders has taken over several subway trains, inviting New Yorkers headed to Citi Field to “ride the whiff” from now through the end of July.
    Photo by: HEAD & SHOULDERS; NYC MTA
    There will be TV ads during the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game (along with an on-air integration for Fox), a strong digital presence on MLB.com and ESPN.com, and print ads in New York papers and ESPN The Magazine.

    T-Mobile will be taking over a train on the No. 7 subway, which services Citi Field, a tactic also being adopted by MLB sponsor Head & Shoulders. Joining the transit parade is Anheuser-Busch, with a “station domination” of the Citi Field/ Willets Point station on the 7 line. At Citi Field, T-Mobile will promote customer sign-ups with MLB merchandise.

    MasterCard will use the Home Run Derby as a tie to Stand Up to Cancer and debut a spot with the mascots of the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets. Anheuser-Busch is producing All-Star Game cans for the New York market and sponsoring an on-field musical performance prior to the Home Run Derby. Bank of America will debut a baseball-themed ad and is supporting veterans with an “Express Your Thanks” program. Bayer is supporting its Bayer Advanced Aspirin, One-A-Day and Alka-Seltzer brands at Fan Fest, with a fielding practice activity and sampling.

    Duane Reade, Time Warner Cable and the Hospital for Special Surgery have signed as local sponsors of all All-Star Game events.

    On the merchandise side, VF’s Majestic brand is launching batting practice jerseys with new fabrication, which makes the jerseys thinner and provides better moisture management. The jerseys will be worn for the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game batting practice. The entire league will switch to those jerseys next season.

    VF Licensed Sports Group President Jim Pisani said Majestic will offer more than 35 All-Star Game T-shirt designs.

    Modell’s is the All-Star Game’s official retailer and will brand the 14,000-square-foot store, MLB’s largest ever, at Fan Fest and offer Fan Fest tickets as a gift with purchase at its own stores. Modell’s also will sell All-Star Game merchandise and a commemorative T-shirt at the Central Park concert, and in a tent outside of Citi Field.

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  • New sponsorship sales boost revenue for Pro Cycling Challenge

    The USA Pro Cycling Challenge will see more than 15 percent growth in total revenue this year over 2012, with the majority coming from new sponsorship sales. The growth comes despite a $2.5 million nonpayment from one of the race’s founding partners, Exergy Energy.

    In its third year, the USA Pro Cycling Challenge will still lose money in 2013, according to CEO Shawn Hunter, but it is on pace to break even by 2015.

    “We’ve added a lot of endemics from the cycling and endurance sports space,” Hunter said. “Our existing sponsor base is all on multiyear contracts, so it was nice to get interest from new brands.”

    The race, which has an operating budget of approximately $10 million, begins Aug. 19 in Aspen, Colo., and finishes Aug. 25 in Denver.

    At the founding partnership level — which industry sources valued in the mid-six figures — the race has added Jelly Belly jellybeans, diabetes pharmaceutical manufacturer Novo Nordisk, Clif Bar and Jackson Life Insurance. Also coming on board as a new partner at that level is Colorado State University, which will sponsor the Best Young Rider jersey that is awarded to the top rider under the age of 25.

    Partners at that level earn branding along the course, activation in the pre- and post-race expo space as well as advertising on the race’s NBC Sports and Eurosport broadcast, and the Tour Tracker, a free online live streaming service.

    The race also is adding two amateur mass-participant events, including the 108-mile ride on Aug. 11 in Fort Collins, which is being sponsored by UnitedHealthcare.

    “We like the partnership because we can show that cycling isn’t just about pro racing, it’s something people can do regardless of age,” said Dave Tjaden, chief marketing officer for UnitedHealthcare.

    The race’s growth in revenue comes after it launched a lawsuit against Idaho-based renewable energy company Exergy for delinquency of payment. Hunter declined to comment on the lawsuit, other than to confirm the race was seeking $2.5 million in back payments.

    Exergy did not respond to emails or calls for comment.

    Exergy came on board as a founding partner of the race in 2011 in a three-year deal. Industry experts valued the deal at $1 million annually. Exergy previously owned branding on the USA Pro Cycling Challenge’s race leader’s jersey and its podium. That branding space will be taken over by founding partner Smashburger.

    Hunter said the race is currently talking with three brands about buying title sponsorship.

    “Our model works — if one sponsor pulls out, we don’t collapse,” he said. “We are where we expected to be in year three.”

    Fred Dreier is a writer in Colorado.

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