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Volume 20 No. 42
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Minor League Baseball hires new CMO to lead national marketing strategy

Minor League Baseball has hired former IMG College executive Michael Hand as its new chief marketing officer, setting in motion a new national marketing strategy titled Project Brand.

Hand, previously the senior vice president of marketing and strategy for IMG College, will lead the property’s marketing and branding efforts as the affiliated minors continue an effort to become a more unified, nationally prominent outfit and generate additional collective revenue.

Project Brand, first disclosed to individual team owners in December and now to be run by Hand, aims to strike national corporate partnerships with top-tier brands as opposed to the minors’ traditional practices of selling local ballpark and media inventory.

“When you look at all the connections Minor League Baseball has all across America, in all of our 160 markets, this really is a major untapped opportunity,” Hand said. “The teams have done an amazing job becoming a part of the fabric of their individual cities. What we want to do now is tell a broader story to corporate America as well.”

Before joining IMG in 2009, Hand held marketing roles with Hershey, MillerCoors, General Motors, M&M/Mars and BMW. His varied background on both the buy and sell sides of sports marketing, and experience navigating between national and local activations and the more than 70 universities in the IMG College portfolio, were all seen as major attributes.

“Michael exemplifies precisely the type of person, the type of background, we were looking for,” said Chuck Greenberg, chairman and managing partner of the State College (Pa.) Spikes and Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Pelicans, and a member of an ad hoc committee charged with helping develop Project Brand and hire the CMO. “We looked a lot of people, but this is the guy we absolutely wanted, and he’s got an open platform to really use his talents.”

MiLB also worked with executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates during a four-month hiring process that had become one of the most talked-about job searches in the industry.

Hand will be based in Minor League Baseball’s St. Petersburg, Fla., headquarters and report directly to President Pat O’Conner. Hand will also carry the title of president of Minor League Baseball Enterprises.

The development of Project Brand is designed to be complementary to the Baseball Internet Rights Co., the affiliated minors digital rights venture with MLB Advanced Media that creates a common digital platform for MiLB and shares revenue generated through online advertising, multimedia content and other similar efforts.

“We see this effort, like we do BIRCO, as truly transformational,” O’Conner said. “We’ve traditionally been a ‘states’ rights’ group, so to speak, and we still are in a lot of ways. But I’m continuing to push the message of ‘the power of one,’ and this effort and bringing on Michael is another big step forward.”