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Volume 20 No. 42
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MLB shopping title deal for Home Run Derby to insurers

Terry Lefton
The 2013 Major League Baseball season gets under way this week and for the first time in years, there is no sponsor for the annual Home Run Derby competition held the night before the All-Star Game in mid-July.

The ESPN-televised Home Run Derby, one of the largest sponsorship assets sold by MLB and one of the biggest sports ratings draws of the summer, was left without a sponsor last year when State Farm exited MLB’s corporate roster after six years. The departure of MLB sales chief Lou Koskovolis in February to lead sales for NBC Sports Group’s Golf Media further complicates a potential deal, even at a time when insurance brands are spending marketing dollars like it is Monopoly money.

State Farm’s name came off the derby after last season. Will another insurer want to follow?
ndustry sources tell us that Chris Marciani, MLB vice president of national sales, has been shopping a derby deal, along with rights for the entire insurance category, to companies including USAA and Geico at a price of about $8 million annually. That does not include the additional media and MLB Advanced Media digital assets it would take to support the package, which could escalate the cost to more than $10 million.

Whether one insurance brand would want to follow another as a Home Run Derby sponsor is an intriguing question. Geico has more than a dozen MLB club deals, including one with the Mets and Citi Field, which will host this year’s derby and All-Star Game.

Without much time to plan marketing activation around such a sizable investment, several sources said, the league was close to awarding the derby to new wireless sponsor T-Mobile. MLB’s executive vice president of business, Tim Brosnan, said, “We’re still talking to a lot of potential sponsors and should have a decision soon.”

Elsewhere on the MLB sponsorship front: As noted here previously, the renewal of Pepsi, an MLB sponsor since 1997, is all but complete. As for bringing in a new MLB sales chief? Brosnan said that job opening is with a search firm and “we’ll take the best candidate.” In terms of history on the position, when current NFL sponsorship chief John Brody left MLB for Wasserman Media Group in August 2010, MLB tabbed Koskovolis, who was at Six Flags, for the post five months later.

> FRISCO FIZZ: Pepsi has signed a 10-year founding partnership deal for soft drink marketing and pouring rights at the San Francisco 49ers’ yet-unnamed new $1.2 billion facility in Santa Clara, which is set to open in 2014. Since Coke is a longtime 49ers team sponsor, the deal is noteworthy for the switch to rival Pepsi, which has a 10-year term at the new stadium matching that of Anheuser-Busch. A-B also displaced an incumbent 49ers sponsor, MillerCoors.
Coke will have one more year with the 49ers at Candlestick Park, but after that the switch will make the tally at NFL venues 15 for Coke, 15 for Pepsi and one for Dr Pepper Snapple (RC Cola in Chicago).

Pepsi becomes the stadium’s seventh partner at the seven-figure founding partner level, along with A-B, NRG, Brocade Communications Systems, SAP, Sony and data storage company Violin Memory.
CAA Sports handled the deal for the 49ers while Genesco Sports Enterprises handled on behalf of Pepsi.

> PURPLE POWER: While we don’t believe it has anything to do with the demand generated by winning, it is noteworthy that the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens are close to completing a deal that would see the team’s e-commerce needs serviced by Fanatics Retail Group. FMI was the incumbent. Baker Koppelman, Ravens vice president of ticket sales and operations, said the team is also bringing its stadium merchandise operations in-house, which was also previously handled by FMI. He added that the decision to switch e-commerce providers was based both on service and Fanatics’ ability to offer a broader range of licensed products. Within the NFL world, Fanatics services’s e-commerce site, along with those of the Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, San Diego Chargers and San Francisco 49ers.

Federer will be foaming up for Gillette for another three years.
> ROGER THAT: Procter & Gamble’s Gillette brand of personal care products has signed Roger Federer to a three-year extension of the tennis star’s endorsement agreement. Federer, who has won a record 17 Grand Slam tournaments, has been a Gillette endorser since 2007, when he was part of the brand’s global “Champions” campaign along with Tiger Woods and Thierry Henry. That effort was dropped in 2011. Federer is scheduled to shoot some ads for Gillette under the direction of BBDO, France, this week in Zurich.

> COMINGS & GOINGS: In what strikes us as an intriguing hire for a company best known for venue hospitality, Aramark has hired a longtime property rights sales executive to head new business development. Gary Jacobus is Aramark’s new vice president and head of business development. The former SportsBusiness Journal/Daily Forty Under 40 honoree has been a top sponsorship sales executive at the NFL, NBA and U.S. Tennis Association, and will now be selling Aramark’s suite of food and merchandise concession offerings, along with its building services. “The idea is that I can get in at the ownership level and present our case from a 40,000-foot perspective,” Jacobus said. Aramark has ties to about 150 sports and entertainment venues in North America … Former Samsung CMO Ralph Santana resurfaces this week as executive vice president/CMO at Harman International Industries, a full-line audio equipment marketer and manufacturer with more than $4 billion in revenue for its most recent fiscal year. Aside from the Harman/Kardon brand, the Stamford, Conn.-based company has audio brands including JBL, Infinity and AKG. In his years as vice president of sports and media at Pepsi, Santana signed Dale Earnhardt Jr. as an endorser for Amp. We assume he’ll be more concerned with musicians now, as two of Harman’s largest deals there are with Jennifer Lopez and Maroon 5.

Terry Lefton can be reached at