SBJ/Nov. 14-20, 2016/Research and Ratings

Longtime sponsors score highest MLB recognition levels

Major League Baseball sponsors saw an increase in the number of fans who could correctly identify them as league partners this season, according to the results of this year’s annual MLB sponsor loyalty survey conducted for SportsBusiness Journal by Turnkey Sports & Entertainment.

Many of those gains were driven by the ability of the survey’s avid fans to recognize several of the league’s most tenured partners: Among that fan base, Budweiser (an MLB partner since 1980), Gatorade (1990), Pepsi (1997), MasterCard (1997), Bank of America (2004) and Chevrolet (2005) each achieved their highest marks in the 10-year history of the study.

Pepsi’s 44 percent recognition rate this year was the highest it received in any sponsor loyalty survey.
Photo by: AP IMAGES
The sponsor loyalty series was established in 2007 and features similar annual studies of the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS, PGA Tour, NASCAR and the NCAA.

In the case of Pepsi’s MLB results in this year’s survey, nearly 44 percent of the 400 fans surveyed were aware that the company was an official league sponsor. That rate was higher than the brand received in any of the seven sponsor loyalty studies conducted over the past 12 months. In the three other leagues where Pepsi is the official soda, 39 percent of NFL fans were aware of Pepsi’s status, while 24 percent of the respondents in each of the NBA and NHL studies knew that Pepsi was a league partner.

Pepsi more than doubled its MLB-related ad spend this year, to $5.5 million, according to a SportsBusinesss Journal analysis of iSpot.tv data.

PepsiCo also had success with its Gatorade brand, whose 45 percent overall awareness level was that brand’s highest since generating 50 percent in our 2009 study.

Taco Bell, which has been a “jewel event-only” sponsor the past two seasons after 11 straight years (2004-14) of being a full-season league partner, registered an 18 percent awareness level among avid fans. The only time the brand has fared better came in the 2012 study, when it received a 22 percent awareness level. However, the QSR also was the only longtime MLB partner in the survey to have a lower overall recognition level than a rival: 16 percent of the fans surveyed incorrectly believed that McDonald’s was the league’s official QSR (a 10-year high for the brand), compared with 14 percent for Taco Bell.

Another brand that received a lower recognition level than a nonsponsor was Falken Tire, which just wrapped up its first full season as a league partner. Falken garnered nearly 18 percent of the overall fan awareness, about 1 percentage point less than Goodyear (whose only MLB activation occurs when it is hired by a network to provide aerial coverage for broadcasts from one of its blimps).

Of course, anything would have been an improvement over Falken’s 2015 survey results: The company signed its league-level deal in the final week of the 2015 regular season, and when the survey was fielded two weeks later, less than 3 percent of the survey’s respondents knew it.

Falken spent about $2.3 million during MLB-related telecasts in 2016, up from $341,000 in 2015, according to iSpot.tv.

Besides McDonald’s and Goodyear, other nonsponsors that fared well among all fans included Toyota, which matched the 10-year high it received in 2010, and Wells Fargo, whose 7 percent overall rate was an all-time high for the brand.

Although the official partner in the tire, QSR, wireless and insurance categories each posted year-over-year increases in recognition, fans were still more likely to select the “I’m not sure” option when asked to name the official partner in each of those categories.

Methodology

For this project, Turnkey Sports & Entertainment, through its Turnkey Intelligence operation, conducted national consumer research surveys among a sample of 400 members of the Toluna online panel who were at least 18 years old.

The 2016 survey was conducted Oct. 13-26, during league championship series play and the first two games of the World Series, consistent with the time periods of previous surveys.

Respondents were analyzed based on their avidity levels. Fans categorized as “avid” were those who responded “4” or “5” to the question “How big a fan are you of MLB?” and claimed to “look up news, scores and standings several times a week or more often,” “watch/listen/attend at least 11 games per season,” and “have a favorite team.” Fans categorized as “casual” responded “3” to the same initial question, then claimed to “look up news, scores and standings several times a month or more often,” “watch/listen/attend at least 3 games per season,” and “have a favorite team.”

The percentage responses listed have been rounded. The margin of error for each survey is +/- 4.9 percentage points.

Turnkey Intelligence performs research work for more than 70 North American major league teams, league offices and brands. MLB and several of its teams are among the company’s clients.

IMPACT ON SAMPLING AND SUPPORT

Are you more or less likely to consider trying a product/service if that product/service is an official sponsor of MLB?

  Avid Casual
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
More likely 58% 52% 49% 40% 35% 26%
Unaffected / less likely 42% 48% 51% 60% 65% 75%

Are you more or less likely to consciously support a company by purchasing its products/services if the company is an official sponsor of MLB?

  Avid Casual
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
More likely 57% 56% 50% 41% 37% 31%
Unaffected / less likely 43% 45% 50% 59% 63% 70%

Are you more or less likely to recommend a product/service to a friend or family member if that product/service is an official sponsor of MLB?

  Avid Casual
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
More likely 53% 51% 53% 36% 36% 29%
Unaffected / less likely 47% 49% 47% 64% 64% 72%

 

SPONSORSHIP SIGNIFICANCE AND ASSESSMENT

Subject: How much more likely are fans to consider purchasing/using an MLB sponsor’s product/service if they are aware of the relationship?
To read: 40 percent of MLB fans said they would be more likely to consider buying from MLB’s official tire company if they knew what tire brand had that designation. The rate increased to 64 percent when considering only those MLB fans who correctly knew that Falken is MLB’s official tire.

CATEGORY (MLB SPONSOR) AMONG ALL MLB FANS AMONG MLB FANS WHO CORRECTLY IDENTIFIED THE SPONSOR DIFFERENCE
Tire (Falken)

40%

64%

+24 pct. points

Insurance (Esurance*)

40%

64%

+24 pct. points

Wireless (T-Mobile)

42%

62%

+20 pct. points

Quick-service restaurant (Taco Bell)

41%

59%

+18 pct. points

Sports drink (Gatorade)

45%

62%

+17 pct. points

Bank (Bank of America)

40%

56%

+16 pct. points

Soft drink (Pepsi)

45%

60%

+15 pct. points

Automotive (Chevrolet)

44%

57%

+13 pct. points

Credit card (MasterCard)

42%

54%

+12 pct. points

Beer (Budweiser)

45%

46%

+1 pct. points


Subject: What brands do fans think should be MLB sponsors?
To read: 54 percent of MLB fans said they think Gatorade should be an MLB sponsor, compared to 14 percent who think rival Powerade should have an MLB deal. Those numbers became 69 percent and 16 percent, respectively, when considering only those MLB fans who correctly knew that Gatorade is MLB’s official sports drink.

  AMONG ALL MLB FANS AMONG MLB FANS WHO CORRECTLY IDENTIFIED THE SPONSOR
MLB SPONSOR/COMPETITOR RESPONSE RATES DIFFERENCE RESPONSE RATES DIFFERENCE
Gatorade/Powerade 54% / 14% +40 pct. pts. 69% / 16% +53 pct. pts.
Budweiser/Miller Lite 48% / 19% +29 pct. pts. 64% / 17% +47 pct. pts.
Bank of America/Wells Fargo 38% / 17% +21 pct. pts. 60% / 16% +44 pct. pts.
Chevrolet/Ford 42% / 35% +7 pct. pts. 60% / 29% +31 pct. pts.
MasterCard/Visa 41% / 49% -8 pct. pts. 65% / 40% +25 pct. pts.
T-Mobile/AT&T 24% / 42% -18 pct. pts. 50% / 36% +14 pct. pts.
Pepsi/Coca-Cola 46% / 54% -8 pct. pts. 59% / 49% +10 pct. pts.
Taco Bell^/McDonald’s 23% / 51% -28 pct. pts. 46% / 43% +3 pct. pts.
Esurance*/Geico 12% / 27% -15 pct. pts. 28% / 25% +3 pct. pts.
Falken/Michelin 8% / 32% -24 pct. pts. 21% / 30% -9 pct. pts.

* Both Esurance and The Hartford have official sponsorships with MLB in the insurance category, but only Esurance was asked about in this portion of the survey.
^ Taco Bell was asked about in the survey though it officially became a “jewel event sponsor” for the league in 2015 instead of being MLB’s official QSR, at it had been from 2007-14.
Notes: Fans could select both the official sponsor and the competitor if they chose to do so. The one specific competing company listed was selected by Turnkey for consideration in the survey file.


Which of the following is an official sponsor of MLB?

  Avid Casual
BEER
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
Budweiser* 52.0% 42.0% 42.5% 45.5% 41.0% 46.5%
Miller Lite 6.5% 11.0% 7.5% 10.0% 10.5% 8.5%
Coors Light 7.5% 8.0% 7.0% 8.0% 10.5% 9.0%
I’m not sure 19.5% 26.5% 28.0% 28.5% 32.5% 30.5%
For the fifth consecutive year, the Budweiser brand was the most-recognized MLB sponsor among the league’s fans in the survey. Earlier this year, Budweiser and parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev released commemorative 12-ounce Budweiser cans for all 30 MLB teams. During The Budweiser MLB Signature Series 2016 Sweepstakes, which ran from May 1-June 30, fans could win a trip for two to the All-Star Game in San Diego.
  Avid Casual
SPORTS DRINK
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
Gatorade* 56.0% 35.5% 43.0% 34.0% 38.0% 38.0%
Powerade 7.0% 6.0% 5.5% 9.5% 5.0% 5.0%
Red Bull 7.5% 9.5% 8.0% 7.5% 7.0% 6.5%
I’m not sure 25.5% 38.5% 38.0% 37.0% 45.0% 45.0%
Gatorade, an MLB corporate sponsor since 1990, again featured reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper in commercials throughout the season. In Kansas City, Royals catcher Salvador Perez was featured in a new Gatorade billboard with a 3-D Gatorade cooler celebrating the team’s 2015 World Series championship. The PepsiCo brand also sponsored postseason
@MLBTV Premium subscriptions to college students for free.
  Avid Casual
CREDIT CARD
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
MasterCard* 43.5% 24.5% 18.0% 27.5% 23.5% 18.0%
Visa 21.0% 24.5% 24.0% 23.5% 17.5% 16.0%
American Express 8.0% 11.5% 9.5% 10.0% 8.0% 11.0%
Discover 3.5% 4.5% 5.0% 5.5% 3.5% 3.5%
I’m not sure 24.0% 34.0% 40.5% 33.5% 46.5% 51.0%
In April, MLB and MasterCard extended their marketing partnership that dates to 1997. As part of the deal, MasterCard became the new presenting sponsor of the All-Star Game and MLB.com Shop at MLB FanFest during All-Star Week. MasterCard broke previous sales records from the FanFest shop with sales up 36 percent from last year in Cincinnati. MasterCard has team deals with the Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, which recently renewed its deal.
  Avid Casual
WIRELESS
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
T-Mobile* 36.5% 21.5% 17.5% 24.0% 21.0% 13.5%
Verizon 12.0% 13.5% 12.0% 17.5% 11.0% 14.0%
AT&T 15.5% 21.0% 18.0% 11.0% 8.5% 10.0%
Sprint 6.0% 4.5% 6.0% 5.5% 7.0% 5.5%
I’m not sure 26.5% 37.5% 42.5% 39.5% 50.5% 53.5%
In March, T-Mobile renewed its MLB sponsorship that first began in 2013. With the renewal came sponsorship of the MLB Home Run Derby and a new youth Home Run Derby competition. T-Mobile subscribers also were entitled to a year’s free subscription to MLB.TV Premium. During the postseason, T-Mobile ran its #Unlimited Baseball contest that gave fans the chance to win prizes that included MLB.TV for life, tickets to all their favorite team’s 2017 home games, a $2,500 shopping spree on MLBshop.com or the grand prize of a trip to every game of the 2017 World Series.
  Avid Casual
QUICK-SERVICE RESTAURANT
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
McDonald’s 17.5% 19.0% 17.0% 15.0% 8.5% 14.0%
Taco Bell* 17.5% 9.0% 13.0% 10.5% 13.5% 12.0%
Subway 12.5% 13.0% 14.0% 9.0% 11.0% 7.5%
Burger King 7.0% 4.0% 5.0% 7.0% 2.0% 2.5%
I’m not sure 39.0% 44.0% 44.5% 47.5% 57.0% 56.0%
Taco Bell was the league’s official sponsor in this category from 2004 through 2014 but is now a sponsor of only MLB’s “jewel events.” The QSR brought back its popular “Steal A Base, Steal A Taco” promotion for the fifth time in a World Series. A stolen base by the Indians’ Francisco Lindor in Game 1 triggered the giveaway of a free Doritos Locos taco at any participating Taco Bell restaurant.
  Avid Casual
BANK
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
Bank of America* 48.0% 31.5% 24.5% 28.5% 34.0% 24.0%
Wells Fargo 8.5% 8.0% 6.0% 5.5% 5.5% 5.5%
Citibank 5.0% 4.5% 5.5% 6.0% 7.0% 5.5%
I’m not sure 29.5% 43.0% 47.5% 43.0% 45.5% 55.0%
Bank of America, the official bank of MLB since 2004, renewed its deal this year. The 2016 MLB and Bank of America #MLBmemorybank Vault Sweepstakes gave fans the chance to win World Series tickets and other prizes by sharing their favorite baseball memory on MLB’s Twitter and Facebook sites or on bankofamerica.com/MLBmemorybank. In support of the campaign, Bank of America teamed up with the Orioles’ Adam Jones to go undercover as a teacher, surprise students and treat them with free tickets to an Orioles game.
  Avid Casual
AUTOMOBILE
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
Chevrolet* 44.0% 33.5% 19.5% 25.0% 28.5% 20.0%
Ford 13.0% 13.5% 21.0% 16.5% 6.0% 13.5%
Toyota 10.0% 10.5% 9.0% 7.0% 5.5% 5.0%
Dodge 2.5% 7.0% 3.5% 5.0% 5.5% 6.0%
I’m not sure 25.5% 30.5% 38.5% 40.5% 49.0% 51.0%
Chevrolet, an MLB sponsor since 2005, renewed its sponsorship as official vehicle of MLB in May. Chevrolet also was named official automotive sponsor of MLB and USA Baseball’s Play Ball initiative. At the All-Star Game, MLB all-stars autographed the hood of a 50th Anniversary Edition Chevrolet Camaro that was auctioned off on MLB.com, with proceeds going to the Play Ball initiative. The GM brand also sponsors the MLB All-Star Red Carpet Show on MLB Network and a new feature on MLB.com showcasing the top plays from each World Series game.
  Avid Casual
TIRE
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
Goodyear 18.5% 21.0% 17.0% 19.0% 18.5% 15.5%
Falken* 21.0% 5.0% NA 14.0% 0.0% NA
Firestone 11.5% 13.5% 14.0% 11.5% 12.5% 10.5%
Michelin 8.5% 10.0% 9.0% 9.0% 7.5% 8.5%
I’m not sure 37.5% 46.0% 46.5% 41.5% 57.0% 58.5%
Falken Tire signed a league-level deal in September 2015 and added deals with the Detroit Tigers and San Diego Padres. Falken hosted an interactive area at the San Diego Convention Center during MLB All-Star FanFest featuring an R/C track.
  Avid Casual
SOFT DRINK
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
Pepsi* 53.5% 34.5% 30.0% 33.5% 30.5% 25.5%
Coca-Cola 19.0% 24.0% 25.0% 23.0% 15.5% 18.5%
Dr Pepper 1.5% 4.0% 1.5% 5.0% 4.5% 5.0%
I’m not sure 22.0% 30.5% 36.5% 30.0% 43.0% 45.0%
Pepsi saw one of the biggest increases of any sponsor in this year’s survey (up 11 percent overall). In March, Pepsi expanded its relationship with the Chicago Cubs, who would get added exposure by returning to the World Series for the first time since 1945, and rewarded fans with the opportunity to win four seats in the new Pepsi Batter’s Eye, located in the Budweiser Bleachers below the Wrigley Field scoreboard for each game. In June during a Twins-Angels game in Anaheim, Pepsi encouraged fans as part of its #SayItWithPepsi campaign to break a world record for the “World’s Largest Emoji Spectacle” with specially designed umbrellas featuring a PepsiMoji character. This season, Coca-Cola signed new deals to become the official soft drink of the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets.
  Avid Casual
INSURANCE
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
Esurance* 26.5% 14.5% NA 13.5% 14.5% NA
State Farm 21.0% 26.0% 15.5% 18.0% 16.0% 11.0%
Geico 19.0% 27.5% 13.0% 16.5% 16.5% 9.5%
The Hartford* 13.5% 10.0% NA 8.5% 8.0% NA
Progressive 11.0% 13.5% 6.0% 8.5% 10.5% 3.5%
I’m not sure 26.0% 37.0% 50.0% 42.5% 50.5% 58.0%
MLB filled its vacant insurance category in 2015 by signing Esurance as its auto insurance sponsor, and The Hartford as the league’s business, homeowners and employee-benefits insurer. The Esurance MLB Awards program expanded this year to include a new award for MLB Fans of the Year. Voting was conducted through Twitter and at MLB.com/awards, with voters choosing between four nominees for each club’s top fan. In June, the Allstate-owned insurance carrier agreed to a deal with Minor League Baseball to become its home and auto insurance partner. This marked the first time that a league-level sponsor held rights with both MLB and MiLB since Bank of America had an agreement with both from 2005-08. This season The Hartford added five club-level deals (Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Colorado Rockies, Minnesota Twins and Pittsburgh Pirates) to the insurer’s sponsorship portfolio, bringing its total to 10 teams. The Hartford also is presenting sponsor of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year and Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year awards.

* Official MLB sponsor
NA: Not applicable; the company was not listed as a survey answer candidate in this particular year.


10-YEAR LEADERBOARD: WHO'S BEING RECOGNIZED?

Turnkey Sports & Entertainment has polled MLB fans for the past 10 years to ask which companies hold the league's official sponsorship rights in select categories. Here are some of the results of those surveys — showing the marks for the companies that hold (or have held) official sponsorship rights with MLB, and the results for some of their prime competitors. Response rates indicate the percentage of people polled who thought that the particular company or brand was the league's official sponsor in that category. For the remaining six categories, go to www.sportsbusinessjournal.com.

BEER 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Budweiser (1980-present) 48.2% 43.6% 48.0% 37.0% 38.5% 49.6% 41.8% 44.5% 41.5% 48.8%
Miller Lite 12.6% 15.7% 8.3% 15.5% 14.7% 9.4% 10.1% 8.0% 10.8% 8.3%
Coors Light 9.6% 11.7% 14.5% 11.0% 10.9% 9.4% 8.1% 8.0% 9.3% 7.8%
SOFT DRINK 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Pepsi (1997-present) 29.1% 25.7% 28.7% 28.0% 37.5% 39.8% 31.7% 27.8% 32.5% 43.5%
Coca-Cola 29.1% 32.1% 34.6% 29.5% 18.4% 22.3% 23.9% 21.8% 19.8% 21.0%
Dr Pepper 2.0% 3.1% 3.7% 2.8% 4.2% 1.5% 3.8% 3.3% 4.3% 3.3%
AUTOMOBILE 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Chevrolet (2005-present) 26.6% 25.5% 31.4% 25.2% 25.0% 37.0% 20.9% 19.8% 31.0% 34.5%
Ford 14.3% 14.2% 22.5% 15.0% 12.4% 9.8% 18.9% 17.3% 9.8% 14.8%
Toyota 3.7% 4.0% 5.4% 8.5% 7.9% 6.1% 8.4% 7.0% 8.0% 8.5%
Dodge 7.4% 12.4% 12.7% 4.8% 2.7% 4.1% 2.8% 4.8% 6.3% 3.8%
CREDIT CARD 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
MasterCard (1997-present) 21.1% 22.3% 23.0% 18.7% 22.6% 23.3% 19.7% 18.0% 24.0% 35.5%
Visa 14.8% 24.8% 17.4% 23.0% 23.7% 22.5% 23.1% 20.0% 21.0% 22.3%
American Express 16.5% 16.2% 16.7% 7.7% 7.2% 8.8% 8.3% 10.3% 9.8% 9.0%
Discover Card 3.8% 4.1% 5.9% 4.3% 5.2% 5.4% 5.6% 4.3% 4.0% 4.5%

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