SBJ/July 14-20, 2014/In DepthPrint All
To see how the MLB All-Star Game has dramatically grown and evolved, particularly in recent years, one need look no further than Minneapolis.
The last time the city played host to baseball’s midsummer classic, in 1985, the event was barely more than the game itself. A 6-1 win for the National League at the Metrodome, the game was not particularly memorable, even as it featured 14 eventual hall of famers. The Home Run Derby debuted that year, but remained years away from becoming the fan favorite and ESPN programming linchpin it is today.
Target Field, site of this year’s MLB All-Star Game.
Photo by:Getty Images
■ Color Run for an expected record crowd of more than 25,000 at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds;
■ Imagine Dragons concert at TCF Bank Stadium;
■ Futures Game that will include prized prospects such as Chicago Cubs phenom farmhand Kris Bryant;
■ FanFest expected to challenge attendance records posted in St. Louis and New York;
■ Multiday block party featuring several celebrity chefs;
■ Reworked, bracket-style Home Run Derby;
■ Extended run of community events that will add up to more than $8 million in charitable donations, the largest in MLB All-Star Game history (see related story).
All told, this year’s MLB All-Star Game at the 4-year-old Target Field will generate a projected economic impact of $75 million, the largest such figure for any All-Star Game outside of the New York or Los Angeles markets.
Where some other pro leagues have struggled to find secure footing for their all-star games amid sagging fan interest and competitive malaise, this year’s growth markers for baseball’s event suggest a rare vibrancy for what remains a series of exhibition contests.
“Minneapolis is one of those markets where you can really see the change,” said Marla Miller, MLB senior vice president of special events and the league’s primary point person for All-Star Game logistics. “When we were here in 1985, it was basically just a game. Now, pretty much every piece of this, even the things we’ve been doing lately, is bigger than it’s ever been.”
The Target Field setting in downtown Minneapolis for this year’s All-Star Game, along with the nearby Minneapolis Convention Center where the FanFest will be held, provides a more urban, concentrated footprint to the events, recalling prior All-Star Games such as Phoenix in 2011, St. Louis in 2009, San Francisco in 2007 and Pittsburgh in 2006.
To that end, MLB and the host club Minnesota Twins created a marked “All-Star Walking Path” that will extend the roughly one-mile distance between the convention center and Target Field and is designed to encourage pedestrian activity between the various individual events. That green-colored path also incorporates many of the primary downtown hotels servicing All-Star Game visitors, as well as the Red Carpet Parade that will take the players to the ballpark for the All-Star Game itself.
Similarly, a newly opened line on Minneapolis’ light rail system will run between Target Field, TCF Bank Stadium and neighboring St. Paul.
“We think this is going to be the most walkable and greenest All-Star Game ever,” said Dave St. Peter, Twins president. “Walkability and mass transit are a core part of what we’re doing, and everything here is well-connected. We’re anticipating that out-of-town visitors will find great efficiencies when they get here.”
The impact of that new light rail service, the Metro Green Line, will be felt long after the All-Star Game. The Imagine Dragons concert is serving in part as a sort of dry run for the University of Minnesota as it will be the first major event at TCF Bank Stadium to incorporate the new rail service. University athletic department administrators will be closely studying the fan arrival and departure patterns in advance of the Gopher football schedule this fall.
“We’re excited about this new rail service,” said Chris Werle, University of Minnesota associate athletic director for strategic communications. “This line is going to be bringing a lot of people to our games. We’ve done a lot of studies in terms of logistics, but this concert will be a great chance to see it all in action.”
The Imagine Dragons show is the fourth free All-Star concert MLB has staged, but the first in an enclosed, private venue.
The Twins and other local entities also see the All-Star Game as a tool to help change perceptions of Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. Traditionally plagued by the harshest of winters, this past year was no exception and served to further solidify the area’s image as a frozen expanse. But the midsummer classic will be just that — a summer event staged in the most optimal time of the year in Minnesota’s climate.
“It’s hard to think of a better opportunity to showcase this market at the time when the weather is at its absolute
A Color Run is among some of the events planned during All-Star Week.
Photo by:Getty Images
Much like what happened in Kansas City in 2012, this year’s All-Star Game will serve as one of the largest sports events to ever hit the Twin Cities in terms of media exposure, economic impact and overall global reach. The last event of this scale to be held in the market was the 2001 Final Four, years before the CBS-Turner Sports media alliance that transformed that tournament.
The next top-tier sports event slated for Minneapolis, Super Bowl LII in 2018, is scheduled for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium still two years from completion. So for now, MLB’s All-Star Game stands as the local standard bearer for importance and impact.
“Even beyond sports, you have to go back to the Republican National Convention there in 2008 since you’ve had anything generally of this scale,” Miller said. “But really, this kind of event is something that market will not have seen before given how everything is so much bigger now.”
The Color Run, an international series of untimed 5 kilometer races in which participants are sprayed with colored powder as they run, previously held a strong history in Minnesota, staging two successful prior events in the state.
The alignment with MLB arrived in part through mutual contacts and sponsors such as Pepsi, Nike and MTV.
The expected crowd for the July 13 race will more than double the participation of last year’s All-Star 5K race, fueled in part by the additional space available in the state fairgrounds compared to a road course. The 3-year-old Color Run, which bills itself as “The Happiest 5K On the Planet,” also will receive a significant boost in exposure through the MLB partnership as it pursues its own global expansion.
Even before this year’s All-Star Color Run was staged, MLB and Color Run executives began negotiations on a potential repeat effort during next year’s All-Star Game in Cincinnati.
“These kinds of partnerships, like the one we have with MLB, help separate us in the participatory space,” said Travis Snyder, Color Run founder and chief executive. “Finding synergistic partnerships like this are exactly the kinds of things we’re looking for.”
As the national spotlight shines on Minneapolis-St. Paul for the 2014 MLB All-Star Game, it’s easy to forget that the Twin Cities came awfully close to losing their baseball team forever in the early 2000s.
In 2001, the Twins were in danger of contraction under a plan by MLB Commissioner Bud Selig to eliminate two teams: Minnesota and the Montreal Expos.
Two factors drove the potential move. First, baseball’s economics had spiraled out of control with regard to player salaries in the mid to late 1990s. Secondly, the Twins had failed to get a new ballpark built to replace the aging Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis.
In 2001, the Twins played in the Metrodome and were in the crosshairs of contraction talk.
Photo by:Getty Images
It wasn’t until about five years later, in 2005 after the Twins and public officials finally developed a workable plan to finance construction of a new stadium, that the pressure dissipated. Target Field opened in 2010, preserving MLB in the region for the next generation of fans.
After more than a decade of struggling to come up with a ballpark financing plan, two things happened to turn the tide in the Twins’ favor, said St. Peter, a 25-year Twins employee dating to his days in the team’s media relations department.
One key factor happened on the field in 2001 at the height of the contraction debate. A young Twins team led by Torii Hunter, A.J. Pierzynski, Brad Radke, Christian Guzman and Jacque Jones, among others, got the team off to a hot start, going 14-3 to begin the season. After finishing last in their division in 2000, the Twins surprised many by contending for the title throughout the season before finishing second in the AL Central. It began a six-year run of winning seasons and multiple playoff berths.
“That group of players I really think re-energized the marketplace and reminded our fan base … what it’s like to have a competitive baseball team and how baseball can bring a community together,” St. Peter said.
Secondly, and most importantly, the Twins and Hennepin County officials buckled down and emerged with a stadium development plan that could be approved by the state Legislature.
The Twins initially committed to funding one-third of the construction costs, amounting to $130 million of the original $390 million project. The Pohlads then contributed an additional $50 million for technology and aesthetic upgrades, more public art and concession spaces.
When the county’s $90 million budget for funding road and bridge improvements came up short, the Pohlads stepped up again with another $15 million to help pay for that piece of the project, St. Peter said.
Over the past four years, the Twins have invested $10 million to install another video board at the ballpark, develop Target Field Station (the light rail stop connected to the stadium), and to make other capital improvements.
Completing the financing didn’t eliminate all of the hurdles. The tight ballpark site itself also proved to be a challenge. The 8.5-acre property, one of MLB’s smallest footprints, sits above a federal highway and a railyard. But the resulting design from ballpark architect Populous created a much more intimate facility, St. Peter said.
“Because of that, we ended up with a ballpark with more charm, better sight lines and one that probably fits the scale of our site and the urban grid in downtown Minneapolis much better,” he said.
This year, MLB’s annual Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game returns to Minnesota, where it began in 1985. In the nearly 30 years since its debut, memories of the Derby’s origins have become a bit clouded.
The Home Run Derby is certainly a legacy of former MLB Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, who wanted to revive all of baseball’s jewel events when he took office in 1984.
Former MLB Properties President Rick White, then running special events for the league, recalled that during a staff meeting late in 1984, Ueberroth asked for ideas that would bring a renaissance to MLB’s All-Star Game.
Remembering the black-and-white “Home Run Derby” TV series from 1960 and similar contests staged locally by MLB teams, White suggested an All-Star equivalent.
“Pete said, ‘Great — you get to go do it,’” White chuckled.
Then, as now, the two biggest problems were finding a Home Run Derby format acceptable to competitors and fans, and persuading the game’s best to compete.
The Home Run Derby rules this year were tweaked to increase the field from eight to 10 sluggers, and to reduce the
Yoenis Cespedes swings his way to the title at last year’s Home Run Derby at New York’s Citi Field.
Photo by:Getty Images
From 1985-90, the competition was two “innings” with participants getting five outs per inning. In 1991, eight to 10 players were chosen to participate in a three-round contest, with 10 outs per round. The contest has changed from a National League vs. American League affair for its first 11 years, to a player vs. player contest. At least one Home Run Derby featured players competing on behalf of their native countries. In 2011, team “captains” began selecting the participants.
Attracting the top home run hitters to the Derby has not been easy. Some players feel it harms their hitting approach well beyond the All-Star Game. As a result, Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes last year became the first player to win the Home Run Derby without being selected to the All-Star Game.
White recalled that in the Home Run Derby’s initial year, he used the power of an NBA all-star event to attract top MLB talent.
Tickets to the 1985 Workout Day bore no mention of the first Derby.
Apparently that pitch worked. The first Home Run Derby included five eventual hall of famers.
“As soon as I saw we’d filled up the place that first year, I knew we had a hit,” said Prieb. “Then it was the hometown boy [Tom] Brunansky against Dave Parker in the finals — that was great theater.”
However, no one outside the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome saw that contest. In the 1980s, the Home Run Derby wasn’t televised. ESPN has broadcast the event since 1993, but it was not a live telecast until 1998.
Gatorade, which still sponsors the overall Workout Day, appears to also have been the first Home Run Derby sponsor from 1991 through 1995. Gillette sponsors this year’s contest and it also sponsored in 1996 and 1997.
Service Merchandise sponsored in 1998; Century 21 from 1999-2007; State Farm from 2008-12; and Chevrolet in 2013.
Longtime Gatorade sports marketing chief Bill Schmidt recalled that when he joined Gatorade after working for the 1984 Olympics, the beverage marketer was already sponsoring its own Home Run Derby, with MLB players competing locally, culminating in a championship at the World Series.
“The problem was, we did it at 9 in the morning, in an empty stadium,” Schmidt said. “When MLB came up with its own version, we jumped on it. The fact that I had worked with Ueberroth made that a relatively easy negotiation. It’s what made the Workout Day a sellout every year.”
Curiously, tickets for the first Home Run Derby, then as now, paired with the All-Star Game Workout Day, bore no mention of the slugging contest (see photo). Admission was a $2 “suggested donation” for charity. Any kid who showed up carrying a baseball glove got in free.
Tickets for this year’s Workout Day and Home Run Derby in Minnesota were sold only as a package with other All-Star Game events; their face value ranges from $100 to $350. Of course, money raised for charity through the event has also grown exponentially (see story).
Another interesting sidelight from the first Home Run Derby: Ueberroth insisted on having Little Leaguers in the outfield shagging flies, despite the objections of some MLB officials, who were fearful of possible injuries and liability.
“Everybody loves the long ball,” said Schmidt, adding that he still has one of the Home Run Derby trophies. “I look forward to the Home Run Derby more than the All-Star Game. It’s one of the few times you can see professional athletes still acting like kids playing a game.”
So many times, there are disputes about the origins of an idea or program, even when you speak to those involved from the start.
Such is the case with the Statues on Parade program. Each MLB All-Star Game, the program places around the host city more than 30 5-foot-tall statues of an important local symbol. The statues also carry team and All-Star Game logos.
Some fans seek out their favorite individual team statue; others make a scavenger hunt out of finding all of them.
Team-branded replicas of the Statue of Liberty were part of the event in 2008.
Photo by:MLB Photos
For a keepsake, fans were offered smaller versions of the statues, priced at $20 to $30 from Michael Lewis’ Forever Collectibles, a longtime MLB licensee.
Lewis said the program started around the 2003 All-Star Game at U.S. Cellular Field, when 35 6-foot-tall bobbleheads were placed throughout Chicago.
MLB’s program was inspired by the CowParade, launched several years earlier, in which local artists decorated fiberglass cows that were displayed across dozens of cities, including Chicago, in 1999.
“The statues were a way to create a business and a point of difference,” said Lewis, whose company is still producing the statuettes. Other licensees have produced statue lapel pins, key chains and other novelty items.
Because the 2008 Statues on Parade (for the All-Star Game at old Yankee Stadium) was so much bigger than its
Smith said the appeal stems from an artful mix of nostalgia and authenticity.
“We have to pick the right icons to make it work,” Smith said, “but it’s like having an authentic All-Star cap; something they actually saw that’s a memory of the game. Unlike a cap, they are whimsical and can fit on your desk.”
Licensed versions bearing the logos of all 30 MLB teams were produced only for the Statues of Liberty for that 2008 All-Star Game in New York; the Mickey Mouse program around the 2010 All-Star Game in Anaheim; and the apples designed for last year’s All-Star Game at Citi Field in New York. Not surprisingly, those were the most popular. Lewis said he sold between 60,000 and 80,000 units those years.
“Those were our best, but year to year it’s not entirely predictable because the markets change so much,” Lewis said. “It helps considerably if there’s a local retailer that really gets behind it.”
Peanuts characters are featured this year in honor of creator Charles Schulz, a native of Minneapolis.
Photo by:Minnesota Twins
Locals will see it as something familiar: There have been Peanuts On Parade exhibitions in Minnesota and elsewhere since 2000. Still, the current display is a piece of what MLB hopes will be a profitable cross-licensing program with Snoopy, Charlie Brown and the gang.
MLB’s e-commerce site currently has all 10 figurines ($24.99 each) and some Peanuts/All-Star Game T-shirts and lapel pins. MLB’s Smith is promising a much wider selection ahead, especially with a full-length Peanuts movie scheduled for release next year.
“We’re just at the front end of this thing,” he said.
Fox Sports will return to what it’s calling a “super serve” programming strategy for its coverage of this week’s MLB All-Star Game, using its 24-hour sports channel Fox Sports 1 and live streaming app Fox Sports Go to surround the event.
Kevin Burkhardt (left), Gabe Kapler and Frank Thomas will handle pregame duties.
Photo by:Fox Sports
“We take an event like the All-Star Game and try to surround it with programming on Fox Sports 1 to take advantage of the event and promote the event,” said Bill Wanger, Fox Sports Media Group’s executive vice president of programming, research and content strategy. “We’re surrounding the week with cool All-Star Game programming to get people in the mood and get people jazzed up.”
Starting last week, Fox Sports 1 was scheduled to carry 25 hours of original programming in the lead-up to the All-Star Game, including expanded studio shows such as “America’s Pregame” and “Fox Sports Live.”
Fox’s other sports channel, Fox Sports 2, will repeat some of Fox Sports 1’s programming but will not have any
The reason for the new strategy is Fox Sports 1, which launched last August and is able to carry more programming to surround the event. In past years, the broadcast channel would carry the game and rely on competitive networks such as ESPN and MLB Network to produce the programming around it.
“Now, rather than just coming on at 7 or 7:30 for the All-Star Game, we can program a whole week and come up with interesting ideas for shows,” Wanger said. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be about baseball. We’ll have boxing, NASCAR, UFC. It’s a celebration of the week.”
The bulk of the programming will carry a baseball theme. Fox Sports 1 will carry a 3 1/2-hour version of “MLB Whiparound” Monday afternoon (1-4:30 p.m. ET) from its Los Angeles studios. The show will feature reports from the Hyatt hotel across the street from Minneapolis’ Target Field, where the game will be played. The Hyatt will house news conferences and allow player interviews in the run-up to the game.
ESPN has the rights to the Home Run Derby, during which time Fox Sports 1 will carry non-baseball programming from NASCAR, the UFC and poker. The channel will expand “Fox Sports Live” to 90 minutes coming out of the Home Run Derby.
The day of the game, Fox Sports 1 will carry two shows from MLB Productions: “MLB All-Star Magic” and “MLB All-Star Game Sneak Peek,” which will lead into a three-hour pregame show shot from Fox’s Los Angeles studio.
During the game on Fox, Fox Sports 1 will carry UFC programming. “We’re not going to put on baseball programming up against the All-Star Game,” Wanger said. “UFC is a different audience.”
Fox Sports 1’s “super serve” week around the MLB All-Star Game will end two days after the game, with the half-hour “Backstage at MLB All-Star Week” leading into the hourlong “Road to Cooperstown: Class of 2014.”
This year’s MLB All-Star Game in Minnesota will generate more than $8 million in charitable donations, a record for the event.
All-Star Game-related giving has hovered in the $4 million to $6 million range in recent years. The 2014 host club Minnesota Twins and owner Jim Pohlad were not specifically aiming to set a new high-water mark for this year’s event, said Twins President Dave St. Peter, but in-kind donations and matching donations from MLB Charities, the Twins and Twins Community Fund, as well as the separate Pohlad Family Foundation helped raise the total to the unprecedented level.
Stand Up to Cancer is among the organizations that will benefit from the donations.
Photo by:Getty Images
Of the $8 million, more than 60 percent of the sum will be in the form of capital projects around the Twin Cities. Beneficiaries there include the Trout Brook Nature Sanctuary, several youth baseball fields, and a local chapter of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, for years a prominent MLB partner.
Other organizations receiving All-Star Game-related donations include existing national MLB charitable partners such as Stand Up to Cancer and the Jackie Robinson Foundation, the local chapter of the Ronald McDonald House, the CommonBond affordable housing and community development group, and a mobile eye clinic named for late Twins star and hall of famer Kirby Puckett.
The charitable outreach also included a fan-driven component in which the public was allowed to vote for one of seven Upper Midwest nonprofit organizations to receive a $500,000 grant. The winner will be announced during All-Star Week.
“The entire Twins organization was focused on reaching as many organizations as they could, but this was an additional and powerful way to get the fans involved and give them the ability to direct some of these funds,” said Marla Miller, MLB senior vice president of special events.
Major League Baseball’s corporate partners are involved in a bevy of activities around the All-Star Game in Minneapolis.
Thirteen MLB corporate sponsors are advertising during the Fox All-Star Game telecast: Anheuser-Busch, Pepsi, Gatorade, T-Mobile, Nike, Gillette, Head & Shoulders, Chevrolet, MasterCard, Firestone, Church & Dwight, Taco Bell and Target.
T-Mobile’s high-profile efforts include sponsorship of the FanFest.
As was the case last year, its first as an MLB sponsor, T-Mobile has one of the most noticeable footprints in the All-Star host city, including its title sponsorship of the All-Star Game FanFest at the Minneapolis Convention Center. The wireless carrier is using a variety of All-Star assets to highlight its offer of a free one-week “test drive” for its data network with the newest iPhone.
“We’re pushing our Data-Strong Network with everything we do in Minnesota,” said Mike Belcher, T-Mobile’s vice president of media, sponsorships and events.
Sign-up kiosks and charging stations will be available in and around the FanFest and Target Field. Player appearances are slated for local T-Mobile stores, three of which will be wrapped in All-Star Game and “test drive” messaging.
At Target Field, T-Mobile will have signage in dugouts and bullpens, home plate signs, and tablets in suites for fans to sign up. During the Fox All-Star Game broadcast, the carrier will have three spots and an enhancement that will feature the best All-Star selfies submitted to #Allstarselfie.
The newest piece of All-Star marketing inventory is a 90,000-square-foot area adjacent to the ballpark that is
Budweiser cans and bottles in the local market feature All-Star Game logos.
“We wanted something more ownable, and All-Star is a great fit with our ‘Real. Big. Summer.’ campaign,” said Justin Toman, director of sports marketing for PepsiCo Americas Beverages.
Chris Marciani, MLB vice president of national sales, said around 60 percent of fans going to events at Target Field will pass the Summer Block Party area. The space has a capacity of around 4,500 people and includes a Target-branded store with All-Star Game merchandise and displays from Chevrolet, Fox and MLB.com.
Pepsi also is leveraging with a sweepstakes offering four reclining and upholstered “Big Blue Seats” at the game as the top prize. The seats will be featured in a Fox enhancement during the game broadcast.
Away from the game site, Pepsi is activating at Minnesota’s Mall of America with sampling, a virtual home run contest and a concert with Us the Duo.
Budweiser, MLB’s “official beer,” will have its Clydesdales on hand. Within the local market, 76,000 cases of Budweiser products will feature MLB and All-Star Game logos, totaling 1,276,800 cans and bottles.
Pepsi is sponsoring the MLB All-Star Summer Block Party.
To further brand the right-field section over its outfield wall sign, Church & Dwight will distribute logoed foam fingers, fashioned after baseball gloves. Church & Dwight also has a spot in the game telecast and is sponsoring the T-shirt guns that will be firing co-branded All-Star Game T-shirts.
Chevrolet again sponsors the Red Carpet Parade, broadcast on MLB Network, which will feature 65 Silverados, Corvettes and Camaros carrying players, managers, coaches and families. Fans will also get to sample vehicles through the “Catch A Chevy” program outside the convention center.
Other activations include MasterCard’s annual Stand Up to Cancer tribute; Head & Shoulders’ “Wash & Style” events in Minneapolis with hall of famer Dennis Eckersley; Nike’s sponsorship of the Color Run All-Star 5K; Firestone’s ticket lanyard, given to all fans at the All-Star Game; and Target’s program honoring 30 teachers from MLB markets and the retailer’s sponsorship of a concert with Imagine Dragons.
At 18,000 square feet, the MLB Clubhouse Store at this year’s All-Star Game FanFest is easily the largest ever. The expectations of MLB licensing chief Howard Smith are also sizable.
“I’d be disappointed if we didn’t set records, because the amount of product and its quality is better than ever,” said Smith, a 16-year MLB veteran.
New this year are team-specific All-Star Game caps from New Era, inspired by the Minnesota Twins’ 1960s batting helmets, which will be worn by all players. Lids has been featuring the product nationally.
Nike has the majority of the All-Star Game starters in its camp, so it’s using the opportunity to launch more products than usual, including the Tim Salmon signature shoe.
To commemorate the last All-Star Game appearance of Derek Jeter, Nike is breaking a goodbye ad Monday in
With a Majestic store within the Twins’ home ballpark and longtime customers like Target, Sports Authority and Dick’s Sporting Goods firmly established in the local market, VF Corp. expects solid sales.
Jim Pisani, president of VF’s licensed sports group, noted that his Majestic brand will be offering retailers the choice of more than 100 All-Star Game-themed designs on its products.
Not to be outdone, hard-goods licensee WinCraft is selling more than 100 designs of All-Star pins and running three official pin-trading centers.
“We keep building that pin program, and it drives a lot of consumer conversation, but since the game is in our hometown, we have big expectations,” WinCraft President John Killen said.