Gillette, one of MLB's oldest corporate patrons, will title-sponsor the July 14 Home Run Derby held the evening before the MLB All-Star Game and televised on ESPN. While its commercial relationship with MLB dates to '39 and it has used pro baseball players as endorsers since 1910, Gillette has not been an active sponsor in recent years. However, this year it will use the Home Run Derby to push the Fusion ProGlide Flexball, launched in late April as Gillette's highest-price razor ever. "The whole marketing premise around the Flexball technology in the new razor is 'maximum contact,' and obviously that fits well with Home Run Derby and with our baseball heritage," said Gillette Dir of Global Sports Marketing Greg Via, who held a similar position with Gatorade when that brand sponsored the event years ago. "It's just a good way for us to have meaningful conversations with the MLB fans who are our customers." Via said activation plans are to be determined, but will include ads during the ESPN broadcast, ticket giveaways, social and digital plays, broadcast integration, an on-field presence and marketing in and around the All-Star Game host city of Minneapolis. The deal is for one year, but with next year's All-Star Game slated for Cincinnati, Via said his company "is looking at it carefully." Principal considerations for a return will be awareness of sponsorship, the new razor and the audience size for the Home Run Derby, which is generally among the highest-rated cable sports offerings during the summer. Various involved parties met yesterday at Gillette's HQ in Boston to plan activation. Lead agencies are Grey Advertising, Carat Media and Ketchum PR.
PARTNERS IN TIME: After six years of sponsorship by State Farm, which included year-round sponsorship rights in the insurance category, this is the second consecutive year in which MLB pulled in a Home Run Derby sponsor from its existing base. Chevrolet titled last year's event.MLB Exec VP/Business Tim Brosnan said, "For all kinds of reasons, we’re ecstatic that it’s Gillette. They are our oldest partner and we’re happy that one of their most important product launches is using Home Run Derby as a platform." Asked about the overall level of sponsor activation this year, Brosnan said he has lofty expectations. Referring to the site of last year's All-Star Game, he said, “We are going to have a level of activation akin to New York." He cited forthcoming efforts from Target, A-B and T-Mobile. Brosnan: "We also consider our community activations to be just as important and this All-Star Week will be the most intensive ever from a community project perspective."