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Volume 24 No. 157

Marketing and Sponsorship

T-Mobile, the country's fourth-largest wireless carrier, has signed a major three-year sponsorship with MLB and its teams that also includes extensive rights with MLBAM, giving baseball its first league-level telecommunications sponsorship deal in nearly 15 years. Perhaps most notable to fans and team managers, the deal brings the advent of mobile phones in MLB dugouts to call bullpens. The complex deal, pegged by industry sources to be worth about $125M over the three years, will give teams one of three choices with regard to the dugout phones: participate fully with T-Mobile branded docking stations, use an unbranded wireless system with an MLB logo, or not participate at all. The Giants and Yankees, deeply aligned with AT&T, and the White Sox, partnered with U.S. Cellular, are expected to select the latter choice and opt out entirely. Additionally, T-Mobile will work extensively with MLBAM across the league to boost in-venue fan connectivity, a major issue across the entire sports industry and one baseball has put more focus on over the past year. T-Mobile through MLBAM also will gain access to exclusive pieces of digital baseball content and conduct various co-marketing initiatives. The league, MLBAM and T-Mobile announced the deal last night at the Int'l Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, with participating baseball figures including MLB Exec VP/Business Tim Brosnan, MLB Exec VP/Business Operations Joe Torre, MLBAM Exec VP/Revenue Noah Garden and Nationals RF Bryce Harper. MLB execs described the deal as without rival in the sport with regard to its scope covering both business and baseball operations. "The technological challenges on this deal were huge," Brosnan said. "This is a story of everyone working together to deliver a new asset that would attract a new and important wireless partner after years of chasing one." T-Mobile VP/Media & Sponsorships Mike Belcher added, "We needed a property that could showcase our technology, and the different parties worked to build us a new asset that could achieve that." The new On-Field Communication Systems will use dedicated cell antennas. Genesco Sports Enterprises helped negotiate the deal for T-Mobile and will assist in marketing plans, which will include top-level branding in the MLB Fan Cave.

LONG TIME COMING: MLB last held a league-level telecom sponsorship with MCI in the late '90s. Since then, the wireless category has become an important revenue source for every other sports property. But without joint rights from MLBAM, a deal combining technology and marketing rights could not happen. Marketers have privately discussed for years their frustrations working through the varied cultures of MLB and MLBAM to strike deals. But baseball execs said solving their telecom riddle should send a strong signal to the marketplace. "This was 100 percent collaborative from Day 1," Garden said. "We've been working together (with MLB) for some time, but yes, I do think this makes a statement to the market."

T-Mobile's three-year deal with MLB to become the league's new telecommunications sponsor is "just part of the latest effort from T-Mobile to tap into the baseball world," according to Lance Whitney of The carrier is "forming partnerships with Fox, Turner, MLB Network and ESPN." T-Mobile will sponsor ESPN's "Wednesday Night Baseball" and will "work with MLB on local sponsorship of certain teams." The Pirates and Mariners already are sponsored by T-Mobile (, 1/9). LAPTOP magazine's Daniel Howley notes T-Mobile also will be "featured" on ESPN's "Baseball Tonight." Meanwhile, T-Mobile indicated that it will "feature between two and four smartphone-like devices stored inside of a T-Mobile-branded box similar to those currently installed in MLB's ballparks." The boxes will have a "clear plastic door that will show off the communications devices" (, 1/9). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir reports the wireless system "will be tested at the World Baseball Classic in Arizona in March." After seeing how it works and "fixing any problems, baseball will roll it out in the major leagues." T-Mobile's sponsorship plans include "enhancing network connectivity for fans at all ballparks and helping MLB Advanced Media create content for smartphones and tablets." Each dugout's "branded cellphone docking station -- about the size of a personal computer tower -- will be about as visible to TV cameras as the Gatorade vessel is." The move to cellphones "is not" due to a incident during the '11 World Series when noise at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington caused Cardinals bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist to "misunderstand" manager Tony La Russa's instructions (N.Y. TIMES, 1/9). YAHOO SPORTS' Kevin Kaduk noted the wall phones "will remain in the converted dugouts as a means of insurance should something go wrong with the new setup" (, 1/8).

TWITTER REAX: The T-Mobile/MLB deal has drawn some response on Twitter. Synergy CEO Tim Crow wrote, "Like T-Mobile's MLB deal, great fit & content play. Key to sort fans' in-stadia connectivity too though." MLS Digital Properties Coordinator Peter Amador wrote, "I cannot wait to see how the T-Mobile - MLB partnership enhances the in-stadium experience." MSP Sports' Tim McGhee wrote, "I'm sure T-Mobile deal includes significant media spend. But might not be enough to ensure exclusivity on broadcasts." The Wellynn Group's Richard Wells wrote, "Can you see Charlie Manuel texting for a righty? Me neither."

CBS yesterday said that it “had sold all the available commercial time” for its broadcast of Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3 unless a marketer "wants so much to be included that money is no object,” according to Stuart Elliott of the N.Y. TIMES. CBS President & CEO Leslie Moonves said, “If one of those movie companies wants to come in and pay five or six million, we will find room.” Ad agency execs said that CBS has “sold most of its Super Bowl spots” for an average of $3.7-3.8M for each 30 seconds. However, Moonves noted, “We have sold some of our spots for over $4 million.” Meanwhile, Elliott reports Paramount will air a national trailer for "Star Trek Into Darkness" during the "second quarter of the game.” Viewers who prior to the game download an app will be able to “unlock special content during the commercial and be entered into a sweepstakes.” There are usually “60 to 70 half-minute ad slots during each game, plus promotional spots for the network carrying the game.” Moonves said that the net “hopes to include a promotion for ‘Late Show With David Letterman,’” as it did in ’07 and ’10. The high price of Super Bowl spots “also applies to commercials on local stations owned by or affiliated with the network broadcasting the game.” Moonves said that “some 30-second commercials in the game on WCBS-TV in New York, owned by CBS, have been sold” for over $1M (N.Y. TIMES, 1/9). USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand writes Moonves “will not disclose who bought” the ads costing more than $4M, which “is a record.” But Moonves said, “You see a new record for Super Bowl spots every year” (USA TODAY, 1/9). Meanwhile, Senior VP & GM Jason Kint said that the company's digital unit is "close to selling out its advertising inventory as well" (, 1/8).

RING THE BELL: AD AGE’s Maureen Morrison reported Taco Bell is “advertising in the Super Bowl for the first time since 2010.” The spot is being created by Deutsch, L.A., and is “the first spot for Taco Bell created by the agency.” The 60-second ad is “believed to be brand-focused.” The company’s "Live Mas" tagline, which “made its debut less than a year ago, will also be in the spot.” Most QSRs have “been quiet on the Super Bowl national ad front," as it has been “a couple years since a chain made a national buy” (, 1/8).

"STYLE" POINTS: USA TODAY's Bruce Horovitz reports singer Psy “will star in a Super Bowl commercial for Wonderful Pistachios.” The commercial, filmed yesterday in North Hollywood, is the brand’s “first Super Bowl ad and will be Psy’s first ad aired in the U.S.” In the ad, Psy “wears a pistachio-green suit and will display a special way to crack open pistachios.” Psy said that his song “Gangnam Style” will “appear with different words in the 30-second commercial” (USA TODAY, 1/9).

DRIVING BACK FOR ANOTHER: AD AGE’s Brian Steinberg cited sources as saying that Chrysler, which has “stood out among advertisers in the past two Super Bowls with attention-grabbing commercials talking about economic revival in America and Detroit, will return to the game in 2013.” Chrysler in the past two years has “run ads about two minutes long, about four times the length of typical commercials in the Super Bowl or elsewhere.” The special commercials in some cases “forced the TV networks broadcasting the game to rearrange the Super Bowl ad lineup at the last minute and required other sponsors' flexibility about where their ads appear during the game” (, 1/8).

ROLL FILM: In Detroit, Alisa Priddle reports Ford's Lincoln division yesterday "started shooting" the ad it plans to air during the Super Bowl. Ford Exec VP/Global Marketing, Sales & Service Jim Farley when asked if comedian Jimmy Fallon will make a cameo in the 60-second spot said, "We'll see" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 1/9).

Spurs G Tony Parker has "left Nike to sign with Peak Sports in a 3-year, $1.2 million endorsement deal," according to John Brilliant of Parker's official signing with Peak took place Jan. 2, though he has yet to make his first "appearance in game on an NBA court" wearing Peak. A branded signature product with the company is "already in the works, with a tentative unveiling on Parker’s feet for this spring’s NBA Playoffs." Other Peak endorsers in the NBA include Heat F Shane Battier, Pacers G George Hill, Raptors G Kyle Lowry and Nuggets C JaVale McGee. Parker is the "latest high profile athlete to leave the Nike roster for a Chinese based brand," joining Heat G Dwyane Wade, who signed with sportswear company Li-Ning in October (, 1/8). In San Antonio, Dan McCarney noted Parker "had been with Nike since at least 2006." The $400,000 he will earn annually from Peak is reportedly "roughly what Parker had been making at Nike" (, 1/8).

Coke Zero yesterday broke a 30-second spot focused on Univ. of Alabama football coach Nick Saban and his team's latest win in the BCS National Championship. The ad is narrated by Nick's wife, Terry, though it opens and closes with a voiceover from Alabama radio broadcaster Tom Roberts. The spot from Melt, Atlanta, debuted on ESPN and will appear on stations in Alabama. Coca-Cola is a sponsor of Univ. of Alabama athletics (THE DAILY). AD WEEK’s Christopher Heine noted Saban early in his coaching career was a “low-paid football assistant at Kent State where he had to drive a Coca-Cola truck in his spare time to make ends meet.” Terry Saban in the spot “explains how her husband has proved critics wrong against a backdrop of autobiographical images from their marriage, his playing career and his coaching highlights.” The ad is dubbed "It's Possible to Enjoy Everything" (, 1/8).

CHAMPIONSHIP SHIRTS IN SHORT SUPPLY: In Tuscaloosa, Patrick Rupinski reports businesses throughout the state of Alabama carrying Crimson Tide apparel “had a sharp increase in business Tuesday as fans bought items commemorating the University of Alabama's back-to-back BCS national championships." Verna Rowland, who manages the Bama Fever location in Tuscaloosa's University Mall, said that the retailer “had sales comparable to those typically seen the weekend before Christmas.” The “hottest items were shirts that proclaimed Alabama as the 2012 season national champions and with ‘15’ -- the number of national collegiate football championships the Tide now claims -- and hats and shirts with the game's score.” Rowland said, “With three championships in four years, I was thinking (demand for commemorative wear) would diminish, but it really hasn't.” The Alumni Hall store in Tuscaloosa “stayed open until 2 a.m. Tuesday to accommodate postgame shoppers and then reopened in the morning.” Many of the shoppers Tuesday “were local residents.” Alumni Hall Corporate Dir Josh Belcher said that from past experience he “expects to see a lot of out-of-town shoppers buying commemorative items this weekend” (TUSCALOOSA NEWS, 1/9). In Alabama, Greg Phillips notes fans "rolled into Dothan Pavilion after the game to pick up shirts and other memorabilia from Campus Spirit and Dick's Sporting Goods." Even more fans yesterday were "flocking to area shops such as ScreenTech to gather shirts and hats commemorating the new Alabama dynasty" (DOTHAN EAGLE, 1/9).

BANK ON IT: Regions Bank will honor Alabama's back-to-back championships, and the seventh in a row for the SEC, with special branded Check Cards and checks. They were available for order beginning yesterday. Regions has been the official bank of the SEC for the past 20 years. Meanwhile, BBVA Compass released a new Alabama-branded Visa Checkcard to celebrate the university’s BCS win. The design features a crimson and white football helmet with the number 15 on it to (THE DAILY).