SBJ/March 24-30, 2014/Marketing and Sponsorship

Heads up: New Era, Lids unite for seasonlong MLB campaign

Longtime MLB on-field cap rights holder New Era is joining with the league and Lids for a seasonlong promotion called “Home of the Authentic” across 200 Lids stores.

In teaming with its largest retailer, New Era is trying to drive home the message of authenticity, particularly within malls, where competition for licensed-product sales is fierce. MLB caps represent the No. 1 league for sales at Lids’ 1,000-plus stores.

Fixtures holding hundreds of caps with Lids and New Era branding, along with MLB player imagery, will be front and center within mall-based Lids stores in many of MLB’s largest markets, including Dallas, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston. Lids also will get some exclusive headwear products as part of the deal.

The program will encompass both authentic and fashion-fitted headwear. Support includes a roster of 10 to 12 MLB endorsers, including Matt Kemp, CC Sabathia and Prince Fielder.

Fixtures holding hundreds of caps will be front and center at mall-based Lids stores.
Photo: COURTESY OF NEW ERA CAP CO.
“Snapback caps were selling so well over the past few years that they were taking away [sales of] core items,” said Lids President Ken Kocher. “Consumers are coming back to fitted caps now, and this is a way to reconnect.”

Musical artists will be integrated into the program later this season, and all three parties will support with digital and social media.

For New Era, the effort marks a change of sorts: The company typically at the beginning of an MLB season will launch an ad campaign.

“It’s a change in approach to more of a retail/grassroots play,” said New Era President Pete Augustine. “Lids is the dominant player especially in the fitted market. This is to celebrate authentic caps with the fitted fashion colors we’re famous for.”

The program comes after a season in which even the ever-optimistic MLB licensing execs described sales as flat, and one in which the New York Yankees, normally at or near the top in licensed MLB product sales, failed to qualify for the playoffs.

“Malls are where kids go, and making the connection at 200 doors keeps us fresh and relevant,” said Tim Brosnan, MLB executive vice president, business. “Baseball is the only sport where the cap is an authentic item, and reminding folks that authenticity matters is always a good thing.”

Retail-specific programs are a delicate balancing act since they can create hostility from other licensees and retailers depending on the size and scope of the exclusive products and marketing support. Notable ones from other large properties include the NBA/Foot Locker deal, NASCAR’s deal with Wal-Mart, and the NHL’s recent “super shops” within Dick’s Sporting Goods locations.

This program, however, was a symbiotic mix between the biggest cap retailer for both New Era and MLB. So, how big could it grow?

“We fully anticipate this being rolled out in the majority of our stores eventually,” Kocher said..

> NO GAMBLE: With Citi Field entering its sixth year as the home of the New York Mets, the original top-level signature partner sponsorships will start to come up for renewal next year.

Caesars has become the first of the original seven to renew its rights, extending them through the 2018 season. Illustrating changes in the marketplace since the company’s first go-round with the team, the casino operator has added digital and social inventory to a sponsorship that previously had none. Caesars does continue with its branded stadium club and large left-field upper deck sign. A SportsNet New York media spending commitment continues as well.

The other signature sponsors at Citi Field are Anheuser-Busch, Delta, Geico, Pepsi, Verizon and naming-rights sponsor Citi. “We’re about 95 percent sold and attacking these early,” said Lou DePaoli, Mets executive vice president and chief revenue officer.

New inventory available to every MLB club marketer this year is sponsoring stadium video of MLB’s expanded replays, which marketers can be sure fans will watch. Two sponsors have bought in for the Mets: SNY and Barracuda Networks.

Terry Lefton can be reached at tlefton@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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