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Volume 21 No. 2
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MasterCard renews MLB deal for five years

MasterCard has renewed its corporate sponsorship of Major League Baseball for an additional five years and will start activating those rights at this week’s All-Star Game in Phoenix.

The payment card brand, one of MLB’s longest-tenured sponsors, is using its baseball ties to launch a broad-based marketing platform that combines a usage promotion with a cause-related initiative. “Eat, Drink and Be Generous” will encourage consumers to use MasterCard at restaurants, with a penny being donated by MasterCard to Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) each time a fan uses the card at eateries through Sept. 1.

MasterCard will make a maximum donation of $4 million and is defining “restaurants” loosely enough that ballpark concession stands that accept MasterCard, along with quick-service restaurants and coffee shops, such as Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, are included.

A ceremonial “first purchase” will be made at a concession stand at Chase Field to lead off the program and will be included as a vignette during Fox’s All-Star telecast on Tuesday.

MasterCard will herald the campaign with three spots during the game telecast, featuring celebrities Ray Romano and Reese Witherspoon. Additional marketing support includes point-of-sale ads, web banners, statement inserts and ATM ads. A social media extension sees MasterCard dangling an incremental $100,000 donation enticing consumers to upload photos of their “priceless everyday moments” to SU2C’s Facebook page.

The four MLB teams with MasterCard sponsorships — the Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees — will have public address and scoreboard announcements as well as point of sale at concession stands.

MLB is a founding donor to SU2C and has pledged $30 million in donations to the organization since its launch in 2008.

MasterCard has held MLB corporate rights since the fall of 1997, when its now-iconic “Priceless” campaign from McCann Erickson debuted during the World Series with a baseball-themed ad. Ironically, the ad did not use MLB intellectual property, since rights negotiations were completed only after the ad was filmed.

“We have very strong ties to baseball and so do many of our consumers, so it felt right to continue the relationship,” said Cheryl Guerin, group head of U.S. marketing for MasterCard.

This is not the first time MasterCard has tied itself to SU2C. For the past several All-Star games, it has staged a “Hit It Here” promotion during the game and Home Run Derby, offering millions to SU2C if a ball hit one of its signs. During the 2009 World Series, MasterCard ran a SU2C ad that incorporated the Game 3 crowd, and over the 2010 holiday shopping season, MasterCard donated $1.5 million to SU2C, generated by card activity at Times Square merchants.

MasterCard’s domestic support of sports has waned in recent years, but Guerin said the ebb and flow was a byproduct of changing industry fortunes and a natural lapse between large programs.

MasterCard’s history as an MLB sponsor includes two memorable promos: the Memorable Moments selection in 2002 and the 1999 All-Century Team.

“We’re definitely dedicated to sports and we will be turning up the heat there,” Guerin said.