MLB fans were more aware of the league’s official sponsors in 2012 than they were in any of the past six seasons, and more likely than fans of other U.S. leagues to recognize the sponsors of those respective sports.
Those results highlight the sixth annual SportsBusiness Journal/Daily MLB sponsor loyalty survey, conducted by Turnkey Sports & Entertainment. For the first time in the survey’s existence, when fans were asked to identify the MLB sponsor in each of several categories, most fans correctly selected the company that has that “official sponsor” designation.
Also a first: Each of the measured sponsors saw an increase in its awareness score from last year, ranging from a 0.7 percentage point increase for MasterCard to State Farm’s 12.1 percentage point jump among all fans surveyed.
Similar annual surveys have been fielded for the NFL, NBA, NHL, NASCAR and PGA Tour since 2007, and MLB’s improvement on both fronts is unprecedented.
Tim Brosnan, MLB executive vice president of business, said nearly every league partner took advantange in some way this year of the league’s available platforms, including the new wild card games and the MLB Fan Cave, which returned for a second season.
“The Fan Cave is a platform that is new and different and separate from the traditional ballpark exposures,” Brosnan said. “Sponsors look at the Cave as a philosophical bent by baseball that shows that we understand that each sponsor wants to tap into the exposures of the traditional events throughout the season.”
|With team-specific cans, A-B pumped up its stats.
Leading the way among sponsors in the survey results is Anheuser-Busch, with 49.6 percent of all fans correctly identifying A-B as the official beer of the league (51.7 percent among avid fans, 47.4 percent among casual fans). A-B saw that recognition rate among avid fans increase by 11.8 percentage points, the biggest such move by a brand in this year’s study.
“Our primary and secondary MLB packaging was a nice tight design this year, and was executed well,” said Blaise D’Sylva, vice president of media, sports and entertainment marketing for A-B. The beermaker produced 22 team-specific cans. “We got a lot of sell-through with those,” he said.
Additionally, A-B’s Walk-off a Hero program raised $2.5 million in school scholarships for families of fallen or injured soldiers. For each of the 205 walk-off wins during the 2012 regular season, Budweiser donated $5,000 to the Folds of Honor Foundation and contributed a portion of all retail sales from May 20 through July 7.
A-B also tested a temporary pregame hospitality area called Build-a-Bar, set up outside select ballparks. It plans to roll out the concept more extensively next year.
Holiday Inn returned for a seventh season as MLB’s official hotel sponsor and scored a 23 percent recognition rate among all fans, its highest ever.
That 23 percent mark matched the score for Taco Bell, which also had its highest recognition rate ever. The QSR featured a TV spot for its Beefy Nacho Burrito that showed a fan eating a burrito with his left hand while grabbing a home run ball with his bare right hand. Through a partnership with fellow MLB sponsor Sony and its “MLB 12 The Show” video game, fans also could download a free Taco Bell app and play an exclusive MLB Home Run Derby game.
“This was not existing inventory; it was them building something specifically for us,” said Will Bortz, Taco Bell’s senior manager of sponsorships. “True partnership and co-creation with the league.”
The “Steal a Base, Steal a Taco” campaign returned this year as well. When San Francisco’s Angel Pagan stole second base in Game 2 of the World Series, it gave everyone in the U.S. the chance to get a free Doritos Locos Taco. Bortz said the giveaway trended on Twitter three times in one week, including for a brand-record two hours on redemption day. The initial tweet by @tacobell about the Oct. 30 giveaway was retweeted 19,433 times, and the comparable Facebook post was “liked” by more than 68,000 fans.
For this project, Turnkey Sports & Entertainment, through its Turnkey Intelligence operation, conducted national consumer research surveys among a sample of more than 400 members of the Toluna online panel who were at least 18 years old.
The 2012 survey was conducted Oct. 24-Nov. 1, a period that included this year’s entire World Series. Similar annual surveys in the past have also been fielded during the World Series and the league championship series rounds of the playoffs.
Respondents were analyzed based on their avidity levels. Fans categorized as “avid” were those who responded “4” or “5” to the question “How big a fan are you of MLB?” and claimed to “look up news, scores and standings several times a week or more often,” “watch/listen/attend at least 11 games per season,” and “have a favorite team.” Fans categorized as “casual” responded “3” to the same initial question, then claimed to “look up news, scores and standings several times a month or more often,” “watch/listen/attend at least 3 games per season,” and “have a favorite team.”
When asked to identify official sponsors, respondents selected from a field of companies and brands that was provided to them for each business sector.
Only the top-scoring companies and brands are listed in the results published here. The percentage responses listed have been rounded. The margin of error for each survey is +/- 4.9 percentage points.
Turnkey Intelligence performs research work for more than 70 North American major league teams, league offices and brands. MLB and several of its teams are among the company’s clients.
|Are you more or less likely to consciously support a company by purchasing its products/services if the company is an official sponsor of MLB?|
|Unaffected / less likely||44%||52%||61%||56%||62%||66%|
|Are you more or less likely to consider trying a product/service if that product/service is an official sponsor of MLB?|
|Unaffected / less likely||45%||51%||62%||57%||65%||66%|
|Are you more or less likely to recommend a product/service to a friend or family member if that product/service is an official sponsor of MLB?|
|Unaffected / less likely||49%||56%||64%||58%||67%||67%|
SPONSORSHIP SIGNIFICANCE AND ASSESSMENT
Subject: How much more likely are fans to consider purchasing/using an MLB sponsor’s product/service if they are aware of the relationship?
To read: 39 percent of MLB fans said they would be more likely to consider staying at MLB’s official hotel if they knew what hotel brand had that designation. The rate increased to 53 percent when considering only those MLB fans who correctly knew that Holiday Inn is MLB’s official hotel sponsor.
|Category||Among All MLB Fans||Among MLB Fans Who Correctly Identified Sponsor||Difference|
|Hotel (Holiday Inn)||39%||53%||+14|
|Insurance (State Farm)||34%||47%||+13|
|Bank (Bank of America)||32%||43%||+11|
|Automotive (General Motors)||35%||45%||+10|
|Quick-service restaurant (Taco Bell)||43%||51%||+8|
|Soft drink (Pepsi)||43%||50%||+7|
|Sports drink (Gatorade)||42%||49%||+7|
|Credit card (MasterCard)||34%||38%||+4|
Subject: What brands do fans think should be MLB sponsors?
To read: 60 percent of MLB fans said they think Gatorade should be an MLB sponsor, compared with 32 percent who think rival Powerade should have an MLB deal. Those numbers became 77 percent and 30 percent, respectively, when considering only those MLB fans who correctly knew that Gatorade is MLB’s official sports drink.
|Among all MLB fans||Among MLB fans who
correctly identified sponsor
|MLB Sponsor/Competitor||Response Rates||Difference||Response Rates||Difference|
|Gatorade/Powerade||60% / 32%||+28||77% / 30%||+47|
|Holiday Inn/Best Western||34% / 22%||+12||62% / 19%||+43|
|Anheuser-Busch/MillerCoors||54% / 30%||+24||72% / 31%||+41|
|Firestone/Michelin||33% / 27%||+6||59% / 20%||+39|
|Bank of America/Wells Fargo||38% / 21%||+17||53% / 16%||+37|
|State Farm/Allstate||36% / 29%||+7||59% / 27%||+32|
|Chevrolet/Ford||49% / 36%||+13||66% / 36%||+30|
|Taco Bell/McDonald’s||39% / 49%||-10||71% / 45%||+26|
|Pepsi/Coca-Cola||50% / 55%||-5||68% / 50%||+18|
|MasterCard/Visa||42% / 52%||-10||54% / 39%||+15|
Notes: Fans could select both the official sponsor and the competitor if they chose to do so. The one specific competing company listed was selected by Turnkey for consideration in the survey file.
Which of the following is an official sponsor of MLB?
|I’m not sure||23.4%||26.6%||25.9%||29.4%||35.2%||32.7%|
In addition to its league-level sponsorship, Anheuser-Busch has 23 team-level deals, including with both of the World Series participants this year. The brand has been a league sponsor since 1980, and in August it announced a six-year renewal through 2018. New in 2012, Budweiser was the presenting sponsor of the first wild card games, the single-elimination St. Louis-Atlanta and Baltimore-Texas matchups that led into the subsequent MLB division series games.
|I’m not sure||27.9%||30.5%||36.3%||36.6%||45.7%||31.7%|
Gatorade has been an MLB partner since 1990, has 18 club-level deals, and finished our survey with an overall awareness level of 44.2 percent among all fans, trailing only Anheuser-Busch as the league’s most recognized sponsor. New York’s Derek Jeter and Minnesota’s Joe Mauer are spokesmen for the brand, although neither appeared in any new nationally televised spots this season. Gatorade also sponsored the All-Star Workout Day at Kauffman Stadium in July.
|I’m not sure||27.4%||27.6%||31.8%||34.0%||39.7%||37.2%|
Pepsi has been MLB’s official soda since 1997 and has pouring rights and marketing deals with 16 clubs. Coke’s MLB portfolio of seven playoff teams included the World Series champion San Francisco Giants. Coke was also the most active game-day team-level corporate partner of any MLB club in 2012, teaming up with seven clubs to sponsor giveaways and promotions at 69 games.
|I’m not sure||38.3%||NA||NA||45.4%||NA||NA|
Firestone became the official tire of MLB in 2010, the brand’s first non-motorsports sponsorship in 25 years. The 2012 All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote sponsored by Firestone was a Twitter-based activation (#FinalVote) that asked fans to vote over a four-hour period, once the original round of final-player voting was completed, for the two final players to make the roster. In all, more than 40 million votes were cast in the combined voting efforts.
|I’m not sure||38.2%||38.2%||46.8%||44.8%||54.8%||48.2%|
An official MLB partner since 2007, State Farm maintained a team-level portfolio of 24 clubs this year. That’s the same count as in 2010 and 2011, and each of those deals provided in-stadium signage. For the third consecutive year, State Farm sponsored the “Go to Bat” program, an online, charitable giving initiative in which each of 10 selected participants could choose from a group of four charities (the American Red Cross, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Habitat for Humanity, and Teach For America), and the organization picked by each participant received a donation of $18,000. Each of the 10 participants, for their involvement, also received a VIP trip for two to the World Series. Among other companies, Geico sponsored nine clubs this year, and its signage at Nationals Park received high visibility in 2012 with Washington’s on-field success. Still, the brand saw its lowest recognition levels of the past four years.
|I’m not sure||33.8%||34.3%||41.3%||45.4%||47.2%||48.2%|
A league partner since 1997, MasterCard topped Visa in our study among all fans for the first time since 2009. MasterCard this year sponsored a contest in which cardholders were automatically entered for a chance to win an all-expenses paid trip to the World Series every time they used their MasterCard card between July 1 and Sept. 1. In the second year of a five-year extension signed in July 2011, the brand also renewed its “Eat, Drink and Be Generous” initiative, which encouraged fans to use MasterCard at restaurants, including ballpark concessions stands, with a penny being donated by MasterCard to Stand Up To Cancer for each use.
|I’m not sure||35.8%||45.1%||43.6%||45.4%||50.3%||55.8%|
Taco Bell has been an official league partner since 2004, and since 2007, the first year of this annual survey, the percentage of fans who correctly identified that sponsorship status has increased threefold. Awareness levels among avid fans in particular has increased every year since 2009. The Yum! Brands QSR title-sponsored the All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game during MLB All-Star Sunday.
|I’m not sure||49.8%||50.5%||58.7%||58.2%||60.8%||60.3%|
Holiday Inn has seen its awareness levels surge from 12.3 percent of all fans in 2010 to 22.8 percent in this year’s survey. MLB’s hotel and resort sponsor since 2006, the brand over the past several seasons showcased its billion-dollar repositioning and renovation with a number of ads. This season, it relied primarily on the continuation of highly visible presence on each team’s website, with a banner ad telling fans to “Plan Your Road Trip Now” by clicking on the ad and booking a room.
|I’m not sure||33.8%||37.8%||39.3%||43.8%||54.8%||44.7%|
General Motors, a league sponsor since 2005, gained prime exposure during more than a dozen nationally televised Detroit Tigers games this season, as its 2013 Malibu Eco and 2013 Chevrolet Camaro sat atop the Chevrolet Fountain in center field at Comerica Park. In collaboration with co-MLB sponsor Scotts, GM’s “Diamonds and Dreams” contest awarded a $20,000 makeover to 12 different nominated baseball or softball fields across the country. Chevrolet also was presenting sponsor for the All-Star Red Carpet Show, the Ted Williams All-Star Game MVP Award, the World Series MVP Award and the Roberto Clemente Award.
|Bank of America*||35.8%||36.0%||34.8%||31.4%||24.1%||21.6%|
|I’m not sure||39.3%||40.9%||40.0%||44.9%||53.8%||56.3%|
Bank of America has been a league partner since 2004, and its recognition rate of 33.6 percent among all MLB fans is higher than the rate it garners from similar league-level deals the bank has with the NFL and with NASCAR.
NA: Not applicable; 2012 was the first year this category was measured.
* Official league sponsor