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Volume 25 No. 177

Marketing and Sponsorship

Murren (l) and Manfred both believe baseball is a good sport for fans who enjoy in-game betting
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The value of MLB's new deal with MGM Resorts making the league's first official gaming partner and an official entertainment partner is for $80M over four years, according to sources. The pact is more lucrative than the three years and $25M that MGM is committing to the NBA. But there are some key differences beyond the dollars and years. MGM in the MLB deal will receive exclusive access to some advanced Statcast data in addition to non-exclusive access to the league’s official stats feed. MGM will also have some international rights with baseball, including an official presence in Japan at MLB grassroots events in that country, historically a key overseas territory for the league (Eric Fisher, THE DAILY). In Las Vegas, Todd Prince notes MGM is "seeking to win a gaming license in Japan, which could become one of the world's largest gaming markets" by the middle of the next decade (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 11/28). BLOOMBERG NEWS' Eben Novy-Williams noted the MGM-MLB deal "doesn't prevent individual baseball franchises from inking their own marketing deals with operators." Of the eight states that "currently have legal sports gambling, only Pennsylvania has MLB teams" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 11/27).

WIN-WIN SITUATION: In N.Y., Billy Witz notes MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred "viewed the arrangement as a long-term partnership that he hoped would reverse a troubling trend: declining attendance." Manfred said, "Our research is really strong on the idea that sports gaming can be an important source of fan engagement. We operate in a really competitive environment and we have to take advantage of every opportunity to drive engagement by our fans." Witz writes in some ways, baseball "seems better positioned than other sports to draw in gamblers because of the deliberate pace, with its built-in breaks between pitches." Those pauses, far less frequent in other sports, "could allow fans additional opportunities to place bets during a game." MGM Resorts Chair & CEO Jim Murren said baseball is "perfectly suited" for this deal. Murren: "It will increase social networks. People will be talking about the next pitch, the next out, the next inning. It will extend the viewership of games throughout multiple innings, regardless of the outcome or the score in that given period" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/28).

CHANGE OF PACE: YAHOO SPORTS' Mike Oz wrote the "biggest revelation" from the deal was not that MLB partnered with MGM, but that "pace-of-play isn't that bad after all." Manfred is "absolutely right" about how gambling "could turn baseball's pace-of-play from something people complained about into something gamblers love." Oz: "We all know sports fans who will bet on anything, and baseball offers dozens of micro bets per inning and hundreds of micro bets per game." This is "quite the about-face for MLB, which has spent five years telling us that pace-of-play was the big bad boogeyman." MLB with this deal could "turn one of its weaknesses into a strength -- and that's both good business and good maneuvering" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/27).

WORKING THROUGH DETAILS: The AP's Ronald Blum cited a source as saying that MLB is "considering updated policies that would prohibit employees, including players, from causing bets to be made and from distributing confidential information that could impact betting." The source added that MLB is also "discussing its prohibition against team owners also owning entities that provide sports betting," a policy that was in place before the Supreme Court's sports betting decision. Manfred said that he "does not expect there will be betting windows open" at London Stadium for the two-game Yankees-Red Sox series in June (AP, 11/27). ESPN.com's Purdum & Rovell noted the sponsorship is "exclusive, but the basic data rights are not, as MLB plans to sell it to other operators." One area of data that "will be exclusive to MGM is the advanced statistics, including exit velocity of a home run, speed around the bases and route efficiency to a ball hit into the field of play." Those pieces of data will "now be co-branded with MGM" (ESPN.com, 11/27).

GOING AGAINST HISTORY: In N.Y., Dan Martin writes MLB has a "more sordid history with gambling" than the NBA and NHL. That legacy is one Manfred "admitted he gave thought to before finalizing the partnership." Whatever concerns MLB may have had with "going down this road were outweighed by the changing dynamics of betting" (N.Y. POST, 11/28). In L.A., Bill Shaikin notes for almost a century, "baseball stood firm against gambling," but that stand has "slowly eroded." Many teams have "struck sponsorship agreements with Native American tribes that run casinos," including the Dodgers, Angels, and Padres. MLB itself invested in DraftKings in '13 and "later expanded the partnership to a sponsorship agreement." The gambling money is "sure to attract attention" from the MLBPA, whose members "see management revenues soaring at a time when even large-market teams are using the luxury-tax threshold as an unofficial salary cap" (L.A. TIMES, 11/28).

The Dynamo have signed a multiyear deal with Houston-based MD Anderson Cancer Center that will make it the club’s jersey sponsor starting in '19, according to sources. The Dynamo were the lone MLS club to not have a jersey sponsor this season, after its previous deal with BHP Billiton expired. Sources said that the deal is valued at more than $4M per year, which is roughly the league average. The deal had previously been agreed to in July, but will be formally announced later today. Jerseys with MD Anderson’s logo, which includes a strike-through on the word cancer, will be made available in the spring. MD Anderson was ranked the top cancer care center in the country by U.S. News & World Report. The deal also will make MD Anderson the official cancer center of the team, and it will work with the Dynamo to plan cancer prevention education, community outreach, survivorship celebrations and other philanthropic initiatives. The Dynamo will donate a portion of single-game ticket sales to MD Anderson, and will also offer fans the option to add on a donation of their own during the purchase process. The team said that this is the first season-long, cause-related jersey partnership in MLS history. As part of the deal, BBVA Compass Stadium will also become a completely tobacco- and smoke-free facility. There are also plans for additional healthy concession menu options for the ’19 season. The deal was wholly originated and negotiated by the team’s staff locally.

MLS JERSEY SPONSOR PARTNERS
TEAM
BRAND
TEAM
BRAND
Atlanta United
American Family Insurance
NYCFC
Etihad Airways
Crew
Acura
Orlando City
Orlando Health
DC United
Leidos
Rapids
Transamerica
Dynamo
MD Anderson Cancer Center
Real Salt Lake
LifeVantage
Earthquakes
Sutter Health
Red Bulls
Red Bull
FC Cincinnati
Mercy Health
Revolution
United Healthcare
FC Dallas
AdvoCare
Sounders
Xbox
Fire
Valspar
Sporting KC
Ivy Funds
Galaxy
Herbalife
Timbers
Alaska Airlines
Impact
BMO
Toronto FC
BMO
LAFC
YouTube TV
Union
Bimbo
Minnesota United
Target
Whitecaps
Bell Canada
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MLS Jersey Sponsors
PlayStation's Fiesta Bowl renewal also makes it the official gaming and virtual reality sponsor for the CFP
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

PlayStation is extending its naming rights for the Fiesta Bowl as part of a multiyear agreement with ESPN. PlayStation has had the title sponsorship for the Fiesta Bowl since '16. The original deal was for two years. Specific terms of the renewal are not being disclosed. Under the new deal, PlayStation also will be the official gaming and virtual reality sponsor for the CFP and its New Year’s Six bowl games. The gaming system is a Sony brand. “Our audience insights tell us that college football fans are more interested in video games, more likely to play them and more likely to stream sports through a gaming console compared to the average person,” said ESPN Senior VP/Sports Marketing Rob Temple. Fiesta Bowl Exec Dir Mike Nealy said PlayStation’s brand is integrated into events and marketing of the game. “PlayStation is fully on board and actively participates with all of our organizational activities in and around the game. We look forward to many more years together,” Nealy said.