How baseball helped T-Mobile bounce back

Photo by Marc Bryan-Brown
Belcher: "This has been a complete turnaround. Baseball gave us that high profile to shout from the rooftops."
T-Mobile's large-scale sponsorship of MLB and MLB Advanced Media has played an instrumental role in the company's improved earnings, subscribership and brand recognition this year, said Mike Belcher, company vice president of media and sponsorships.

Making a featured presentation at the CSE Sports Marketing Symposium, Belcher said T-Mobile's brand was badly battered at the end of last year, following a failed merger with AT&T and stiff competition in the wireless market. But beginning with a high-profile presentation in early January at the International Consumer Electronics Show, one that included the announcement of the baseball partnership, T-Mobile has found new energy around its brand strategy to be the "Uncarrier."

"This has been a complete turnaround," Belcher said. "We gained over a million customers in [our fiscal second quarter, ended June 30]. Baseball gave us that high profile to shout from the rooftops."

In addition to the top-level subscriber gains, T-Mobile used its sponsorship of the MLB All-Star FanFest to tout its Jump program, which allows consumers to upgrade mobile devices without a contract. Within days, Verizon and AT&T rolled out similar programs. T-Mobile is now planning to make another major announcement during the MLB League Division Series, for which T-Mobile has a presenting sponsorship.

T-Mobile has also supplemented its league-level partnership of baseball with team-level deals with the Rays, Twins, Nationals, Pirates, Dodgers and Mariners, and player deals with Dodgers 1B Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers OF Matt Kemp, Nationals OF Bryce Harper and Pirates OF Andrew McCutchen.

"We needed to drive a radical reappraisal of the brand, and baseball has helped us do that," Belcher said.

The complex deal, estimated to be worth about $125 million over three years, gave baseball its first league-level telecommunications deal in 15 years.

Among other quick hits:

* Efforts to use T-Mobile technology to improve wireless connectivity for fans remain a work in progress. "We're still testing,” he said, “but it's something we want to get right. We hope to be more out of the gate next year."

* T-Mobile measured more than 58 million brand impressions on social-media during the All-Star break. Seventy-four percent of FanFest attendees could recall the brand.

* "We don't have a lot of sponsorships, but we go deep on the ones that we have."
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Related Topics:

Baseball, MLB, Media, ATT, International

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