New Balance Expands Baseball Presence With Close To 40% Of All MLBers Under Contract
New Balance for years "did not endorse athletes in major professional sports," but starting in '10, the company "chose to dive into baseball endorsements instead of those from other sports because its baseball cleats were some of the company’s strongest products," according to Gail Waterhouse of the BOSTON GLOBE. The company now "has 300 active players under endorsement" -- approximately 40% of all MLB players. New Balance got into baseball when management "decided it could take on industry giants" like Nike and Reebok "in that specific market." New Balance GM of Sports Marketing Mark Cavanaugh "came to the company in 2008 from Nike and has helped form the endorsement program." Cavanaugh said, "We had a product line we felt was big enough to compete with the bigger brands, with baseball being one of the biggest participation sports in the world. We set out to literally jump on the field and get our product on another level.” The company has signed Cardinals C Yadier Molina, Dodgers P Josh Beckett, Angels P C.J. Wilson and Yankees LF Curtis Granderson, "who switched from Nike when his contract was up." Every contract has "a charity component." Each athlete "spends a certain amount of time and money serving underprivileged communities; in return, New Balance provides them with a separate fund of money and merchandise for the charity of their choice." Cavanaugh said that the company "helps younger players choose programs to partner with, usually school sports programs or those serving at-risk youth." Prior to its foray into baseball, New Balance "did sign contracts with runners, but wouldn’t use those athletes in advertisements" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/5).