Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 21 No. 2
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

MLB partners with cancer awareness effort

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig has long said baseball is a social institution. Five years ago, a then-fledgling nonprofit called Stand Up To Cancer asked Selig to back that sentiment with money and support.

Selig, a melanoma survivor, has delivered, said Sue Schwartz, a partner in a branding agency and part of a group of powerful businesswomen who co-founded the charity.

Others who helped launch Stand Up To Cancer include talk show host and journalist Katie Couric, former Paramount Pictures chairwoman Sherry Lansing, and Entertainment Industry Foundation President and CEO Lisa Paulsen.

Stand Up To Cancer was formed to foster partnerships among science researchers to discover more effective treatments. It now has 11 “dream teams” of scientists, 26 research grant recipients and two international research teams. Five hundred scientists are funded, representing 101 labs and research centers.

MLB became a founding partner with Stand Up To Cancer with a commitment to contribute $10 million in cash. During the past five years, MLB has contributed $35 million and promised to surpass $40 million by the end of 2014. Those figures don’t include advertising time during game broadcasts worth another $5 million to $10 million annually, or spin-offs such as a “Moneyball” movie premiere benefiting the charity hosted by Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff, said Jacqueline Parkes, MLB chief marketing officer.

Stand Up To Cancer has raised $262 million during its short history. Other than an annual telethon, the charity’s top

Detroit Tigers players hold up Stand Up To Cancer placards during the 2012 World Series.
Photo by: Getty Images
fundraising days have been baseball-related partnerships as part of the All-Star Game and World Series, Parkes said.
Players, fans and everyone else in the ballpark hold placards bearing the names of people for whom they are standing up to cancer, creating high-profile, emotional links to the campaign and the impact of cancer on everyone.

Laura Ziskin, another Stand Up co-founder, became one of Hollywood’s top producers during her career, working on the “Spider-Man” movies and the Julia Roberts-Richard Gere blockbuster “Pretty Woman,” among others. In 2009, she convinced MLB sponsor MasterCard to allow the cancer organization to use the credit card company’s “Priceless” theme in a World Series commercial connecting the charity with cancer survivors and research advocates.

The ad featured Couric, current ESPN analyst and retired player John Kruk, and actors Terrence Howard and Minka Kelly as part of a live segment that aired at Citizens Bank Ballpark during Game 3 of the Phillies-Yankees World Series. Ziskin died in 2011, seven years after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

“The entire community of baseball really embraced it,” Parkes said, noting the role broadcast partner Fox Sports played in making the live ad a reality.

MasterCard has gone on to create programs of its own to benefit Stand Up To Cancer. The best-known initiative is “Dine and Be Generous,” started at the All-Star Game in 2011. Each time a MasterCard customer uses the credit card to pay for a meal costing $10 or more, MasterCard donates to the charity. The dining-out campaign raised $4 million each in 2011 and 2012.

The Stand Up to Cancer initiative can use league marks in related marketing materials. Every year at the owners’ meetings, Stand Up To Cancer representatives provide updates to MLB executives about research gains. Former and current players, coaches, managers and other baseball employees have all contributed to the campaign. During the most recent winter meetings in Nashville, public relations staffers organized an auction on as a tribute to several baseball PR people suffering from cancer. The auction raised $150,000.

Erik Spanberg writes for the Charlotte Business Journal, an affiliated publication.