SBJ/Nov. 27-Dec. 3, 2017/Marketing and Sponsorship

No Chicago: Astros’ title makes for a ‘normal’ hot market

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bout 75 of Major League Baseball’s biggest non-apparel licensees gathered in Vegas earlier this month, and here is what dominated talk on the floor from the sport’s business partners.

CUBS VS. ASTROS: For years, everyone in licensing knew that a Cubs World Series victory would result in the biggest World Series hot market ever. With the Astros’ triumph this season, licensees and retailers got to find out precisely how much of an anomaly the Cubs win was, as far as product sales. Generally, it was 10 to 20 percent of last year’s haul. “The Astros were on par with what you’d expect in a normal year,” said John Killen of WinCraft, marking its 50th year as an MLB licensee with a variety of MLB co-brands with Disney IP, like Mickey Mouse and “Star Wars.”

The oh-so-L.A. version of Rock On Sports’ Swarovski crystal-encrusted batting helmet.
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 ROOKIE WITH STYLE:
Bling’s still the thing among fashionistas, so Rock On Sports’ collection of shimmering Swarovski crystal-encrusted MLB bats, balls and batting helmets was easily the most-talked-about new product line at the show.

Almost as dazzling as the handmade (“one crystal at a time”) products was their retail pricing: An iridescent baseball retails for $1,000, a bat for $7,500. Each ball has 1,000 Swarovski crystals; each bat has 7,200.

Rock On Sports is a subset of licensee Team Golf. Owner David McDevitt said his MLB license for Rock On is less than six weeks old, adding that he’s also been granted additional licenses recently by the NHL (a puck will be $750 at retail), 30 colleges and the NFL, so expect some Super Bowl bling shortly.

So far, Fanatics.com sites are the only distribution for Rock On — they are selling an Astros commemorative championship baseball for $999.

Steak and noodles, MLB-style, courtesy of Three Star Brands’ Grand Slam Steak Snacks. 
Photo by: TERRY LEFTON / STAFF
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 HUNGRY FOR SALES:
A few new licensed food products caught our eye. Three Star Brands, Manchester, Tenn., has acquired an MLB license and is marketing MLB-logoed beef jerky, although it calls its products “Grand Slam Steak Snacks” and says they are all natural and without high-fructose corn syrup.

Three Star has already been selling its products with around 40 collegiate licenses for a suggested retail price of $7 per 2.85-ounce bag.

For those with more of a sweet tooth, Box Score Brands (formerly U-Vend) was showing, and serving, a line of baseball shaped, ice cream novelties: chocolate-covered vanilla ice cream, with a pop stick that’s also a “collectible” bat replica. CEO David Graber said the product will debut at retail in 2017, with a suggested retail price of $2.99 at stores and “considerably higher” at venues. Box Score also has obtained an NHL license, and its puck-shaped products will launch next year.

BT Swim’s pool noodles.
Photo by: TERRY LEFTON / STAFF
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 NOODLING AROUND:
Easy winner of our ongoing “Never saw a logo on that before” competition goes to the licensed pool “noodles” from BT Swim, available with MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL indicia. The 56-inch-by-3-inch noodles carry a suggested retail price of $14.99, or $49.99 for a four-pack. Unlicensed ones can cost as little as a few bucks apiece. Swimming ahead a few retail seasons, founder and President Dan Schonfeld said BT Swim plans a variety of licensed floating pool products, including buoyant thermometers and lounge chairs.

Elsewhere in licensed outdoor recreation, Favorite Fishing, Thayer, Mo., was displaying a forthcoming line of rods and reels festooned with MLB logos and priced from $59.99 to $149.99.

“Our customer is a 35- to 50-year-old with kids, and we liked how the baseball demographics fit that,” said founder and CEO Winston Tucker, adding that the products should be at retail by Dec. 15.

> LICENSING LINES: In winning AL Rookie of the Year honors, Aaron Judge posted many impressive stats, but perhaps none more so than this: Last season, the Yankee outfielder’s licensed merchandise outsold that of fan favorite Derek Jeter in his final year (2014). Surely, most Yankee devotees had an overflow of Jeter products by the time he retired, but we didn’t want to let yet another impressive rookie achievement by Judge go unnoticed. … Gift boxes are popular enough that MLB had both a business-to-business and consumer licensee exhibiting. Consumer subscription box specialist Loot Crate did well enough in its first season with MLB that it’s increasing its baseball offerings from 10 to 20 teams for next season. George Haralambous, director of strategy and merchandising, said Loot Crate will launch NBA boxes with 13 teams in January. Meanwhile, former MLBAM marketer Pat DePirro is hoping the appeal of the “sub box” will spread within the B2B market. His Birdie Box is designed as a turnkey solution for the corporate, hospitality and sports event marketplace. The company has had success with the PGA Tour and is expanding with MLB rights. “We’re an experience, not a subscription,” DePirro said.

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


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