MLB’s corporate partners saw a decline in awareness levels among fans in 2013 compared with what they had in 2012, although the league’s casual fans were much more likely than they were several years ago to correctly identify the official sponsors over competing brands.
Those results highlight the seventh annual SportsBusiness Journal/Daily MLB sponsor loyalty survey, conducted by Turnkey Sports & Entertainment.
One year ago, for the first time in the survey’s existence, the majority of fans surveyed correctly selected the brand that had the official sponsor designation in each of the categories measured. Additionally, in seven of those categories, the official sponsor posted a record-high recognition level.
Those scores took a step back this year. Among the 400 fans surveyed, each of the official sponsors that was tracked saw a decrease in its awareness score compared with those high 2012 numbers, with the declines ranging from a 4 percentage-point drop for MasterCard to General Motors’ 16 percentage-point retreat.
The majority of the declines were fueled by an inability of avid fans to correctly identify the sponsor. Among casual fans, most of the sponsors also saw a decline, but to less of a degree than among avid fans. And in two cases — MasterCard, a league sponsor since 1997, and Firestone, a fourth-year partner — scores edge up among casual fans.
Tim Brosnan, MLB executive vice president, business, stressed the long-term view rather than the year-over-year change seen in the numbers.
“Our corporate partners continue to share the long-term benefits of an MLB sponsorship through increased sales, brand building and recognition, and the positive association that comes with teaming with the national pastime,” Brosnan said.
Along those lines, of the seven brands measured that have been MLB partners for at least five years — Pepsi, Taco Bell, Anheuser-Busch, MasterCard, General Motors, Bank of America and Gatorade — all but Gatorade have seen rising or stable recognition levels over the past few years. For example, despite a year-over-year drop in 2013, the percentage of casual fans who correctly identified Taco Bell’s official status with the league is more than double what it was in 2009. Similarly, Pepsi has seen an increase of more than 15 percentage points during the same time period within that fan segment, and MasterCard has added more than 7 percentage points since 2010.
|MLB All-Star FanFest sponsor T-Mobile saw its awareness levels triple from two years ago.
While emphasizing the long term, Brosnan also cited one of MLB’s newest sponsors for seeing first-year returns from its association with the league.
“Our new relationship with T-Mobile [signed in 2013] is a great example of the immediate impact an MLB sponsorship and activation can have on a brand,” he said.
According to the survey results, nearly 18 percent of all fans surveyed (12 percent of avids, 23 percent of casuals) correctly identified T-Mobile as MLB’s official wireless partner, triple the brand’s 2011 results. (The wireless category was not measured in last year’s MLB survey.) Going back even further, in studies dating to 2007, T-Mobile’s overall awareness level had always been below 7 percent among MLB fans.
Additionally, the company was an NBA sponsor for six seasons, 2005-06 through 2010-11, and it took three years of NBA surveys for the company to top the 17 percent mark that was reached in one MLB season. T-Mobile’s highest recognition level among NBA fans was 27 percent, achieved in 2010 (37 percent among avid fans; 17 percent among casual fans).
Similar annual surveys have been fielded for the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS, NASCAR and PGA Tour since 2007.
In terms of smartphone subscribers, T-Mobile is ranked No. 4 in the United States, according to the September release of Kantar Worldpanel’s quarterly survey, although its share increased to 13 percent this summer, up one percentage point compared with the second quarter of 2012.
For this project, Turnkey Sports & Entertainment, through its Turnkey Intelligence operation, conducted national consumer research surveys among a sample of 400 members of the Toluna online panel who were at least 18 years old.
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 consider trying a product/service if that product/service is an official sponsor of MLB?|
|Unaffected / less likely||62%||45%||51%||53%||57%||65%|
|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||64%||44%||52%||55%||56%||62%|
|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||63%||49%||56%||63%||58%||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: 34 percent of MLB fans said they would be more likely to consider using MLB’s official credit card if they knew what credit card brand had that designation. The rate increased to 44 percent when considering only those MLB fans who correctly knew that MasterCard is MLB’s official credit card sponsor.
|CATEGORY (MLB SPONSOR)||AMONG ALL MLB FANS||AMONG MLB FANS WHO CORRECTLY IDENTIFIED THE SPONSOR||DIFFERENCE|
|Tire (Firestone)||35%||45%||+10 pct. points|
|Credit card (MasterCard)||34%||44%||+10|
|Bank (Bank of America)||31%||37%||+6|
|Quick-service restaurant (Taco Bell)||37%||39%||+2|
|Soft drink (Pepsi)||37%||37%||0|
|Automotive (General Motors)||35%||33%||-2|
|Sports drink (Gatorade)||38%||36%||-2|
Subject: What brands do fans think should be MLB sponsors?
To read: 47 percent of MLB fans said they think Anheuser-Busch should be an MLB sponsor, compared with 30 percent who think rival MillerCoors should have an MLB deal. Those numbers became 74 percent and 34 percent, respectively, when considering only those MLB fans who correctly knew that Anheuser-Busch is MLB’s official beer.
|AMONG ALL MLB FANS||AMONG MLB FANS WHO CORRECTLY IDENTIFIED THE SPONSOR|
|MLB SPONSOR/COMPETITOR||RESPONSE RATES||DIFFERENCE||RESPONSE RATES||DIFFERENCE|
|Anheuser-Busch/MillerCoors||47% / 30%||+17 pct. pts.||74% / 34%||+40 pct. pts|
|Gatorade/Powerade||52% / 27%||+25||69% / 30%||+39|
|Bank of America/Wells Fargo||29% / 20%||+9||47% / 17%||+30|
|Chevrolet/Ford||37% / 35%||+2||60% / 31%||+29|
|T-Mobile/AT&T||23% / 34%||-11||46% / 24%||+22|
|Pepsi/Coca-Cola||45% / 51%||-6||65% / 48%||+17|
|Taco Bell/McDonald’s||26% / 42%||-16||56% / 42%||+14|
|Firestone/Michelin||29% / 28%||+1||40% / 31%||+9|
|MasterCard/Visa||38% / 48%||-10||55% / 46%||+9|
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 the MLB?
|I’m not sure||36.6%||23.4%||26.6%||23.5%||29.4%||35.2%|
Busch Stadium hosted nine postseason games during the St. Louis Cardinals’ run to the World Series. In doing so, the stadium sponsor collected nearly $59 million of media exposure, according to Joyce Julius & Associates research, the most among the seven ballparks with naming-rights deals that had teams in the playoffs.
|I’m not sure||50.0%||35.8%||45.1%||36.7%||45.4%||50.3%|
Taco Bell has been an official league partner since 2004. It returned again this year as title sponsor of the All-Star Sunday festivities that featured the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game and the Taco Bell All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game.
|I’m not sure||42.6%||27.4%||27.6%||27.0%||34.0%||39.7%|
For the second consecutive year, Pepsi Max in 2013 sponsored the Pepsi Max MLB Field of Dreams Game contest. Fans could vote online for the right to host the game, with the game featuring MLB legends along with five friends or family members of the winner’s choosing. Also this year, Pepsi signed New York Yankees star Robinson Cano to be the face of its national MLB marketing campaign, with Cano’s first Pepsi commercial airing during the All-Star Game.
|I’m not sure||52.5%||38.3%||NA||36.7%||45.4%||NA|
More than 20 million Firestone-branded All-Star ballots were distributed at MLB’s 30 ballparks and in approximately 100 Minor League Baseball venues this year as part of the 2013 In-Stadium All-Star Balloting Program, sponsored by Firestone. The ballots included a sweepstakes to win a trip for two to MLB All-Star Week, and among the activities available to fans during All-Star Week was the FanFest Tire Tryout, where fans could hit and throw balls at targets made from Firestone tires.
|I’m not sure||46.5%||33.8%||34.3%||36.7%||45.4%||47.2%|
A league partner since 1997, MasterCard’s MLB portfolio comprises sponsorships with 15 clubs, including the World Series champion Boston Red Sox. During All-Star Week, MasterCard and the Stand Up To Cancer initiative launched the “Dig In and Do Good” campaign to help raise funds for cancer research. As a result of the initiative, MasterCard presented a $4 million check to Stand Up To Cancer on-field during Game 4 of the World Series.
|I’m not sure||68.3%||49.8%||50.5%||53.1%||58.2%||60.8%|
Holiday Inn had been MLB’s official hotel from 2006 through 2012, but the brand’s MLB deal was not renewed after last year, and the category remained open for the league in 2013.
|I’m not sure||43.1%||27.9%||30.5%||32.1%||36.6%||45.7%|
Gatorade, an MLB partner since 1990, trailed Anheuser-Busch for a second consecutive year as the league’s most recognized sponsor in our survey. It had been at No. 1 from 2009 through 2011. At the beginning of the season, Gatorade debuted product displays featuring MLB branding in more than 500 Dick’s Sporting Goods stores nationwide. Throughout the All-Star Game festivities at Citi Field in New York, Gatorade products were present. Additionally, Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer, a spokesman for the brand, presented $10,000 worth of Gatorade products to his alma mater, Cretin-Derham Hall High School (St. Paul, Minn.), one of 39 high schools nationwide to get Gatorade products.
|I’m not sure||47.0%||33.8%||37.8%||40.3%||43.8%||54.8%|
GM ran a 3 1/2-minute spot during ESPN’s broadcast of this summer’s Chevrolet Home Run Derby at the All-Star break, an event in which Chevy also received prime on-site exposure, especially when Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes hit a Silverado truck showcased beyond the center-field wall, cracking its window. More than 6.6 million viewers watched the Derby on ESPN. Silverado trucks also were visible for playoff games at Dodger Stadium and Comerica Park, reflecting team-level sponsorships for the brand in Los Angeles and Detroit.
|Bank of America*||24.3%||35.8%||36.0%||30.1%||31.4%||24.1%|
|I’m not sure||55.4%||39.3%||40.9%||39.8%||44.9%||53.8%|
Bank of America, a league partner since 2004, touted its “Express Your Thanks” campaign that began at Memorial Day and extended through Veterans Day. For the campaign, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation donated $1 to the Wounded Warrior Project and Welcome Back Veterans initiative, up to a maximum of $1 million, for every qualified expression of thanks from bank customers and other individuals at bankofamerica.com/troopthanks and on Twitter. Bank of America also was a sponsor of both World Series teams along with 10 other MLB clubs.
|I’m not sure||51.0%||NA||36.0%||37.2%||NA||48.7%|
T-Mobile became the league’s newest sponsor this year, announcing a three-year, $125 million deal with MLB in January. The deal fills a category that had been vacant since MCI was a league partner in the late 1990s. The telecommunications company this year became a presenting sponsor for ESPN’s “Wednesday Night Baseball” and title sponsor for the All-Star FanFest. The company also used the All-Star Game to promote its “T-Mobile Jump!” phone-upgrade program.
|I’m not sure||56.9%||38.2%||38.2%||49.0%||44.8%||54.8%|
State Farm was an official MLB partner and title sponsor of the annual Home Run Derby for six seasons from 2007 through 2012 but did not return for 2013, leaving the category open for MLB this year.
* Official MLB sponsor
NA: Not available; the category was not measured in that year’s survey.