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Volume 21 No. 13

Research and Ratings

Budweiser’s 38-year relationship with Major League Baseball has paid big dividends in terms of sponsorship recognition, according to the survey.
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It seems like a perfect marriage.
Methodology

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.

The 2017 survey was conducted Oct. 18-25, during league championship series play and the first two games of the World Series, consistent with the time periods of previous surveys.

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.”

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.


Thirty-eight seasons together have made Budweiser’s sponsorship of Major League Baseball the most recognized beer partnership in sports, according to the results of the 11th annual MLB sponsor loyalty survey conducted for SportsBusiness Journal by Turnkey Sports & Entertainment.

More than 48 percent of the fans who took part in the study, fielded last month during the playoffs, correctly identified Budweiser as the league’s official beer, a status it has held since 1980. That awareness level was two percentage points higher than Bud Light generated during our most recent NFL study and more than double the rate that Coors Light had with the NHL when that league was measured last season (see chart). Both of those deals are currently in their seventh season.

The sponsor loyalty series was established in 2007 and features similar annual studies of the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS, PGA Tour, NASCAR and the NCAA.

Beer was not the only beverage to resonate with baseball fans.

Coca-Cola enjoyed a 41 percent awareness level in it’s rookie year after taking over MLB’s official soda designation following the 2016 season. Pepsi had held that role since 1997, and in the 2016 study the brand’s 43.5 percent recognition level was the highest it had ever received in the sponsor loyalty series (see chart).

Coke received significant exposure as a result of its activation with both World Series teams, the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers. The brand title sponsors the Coca-Cola Right Field Pavilion in Dodger Stadium and Minute Maid Field’s Coca-Cola Front Porch, two entertainment areas that were visible on telecasts throughout the playoffs.

Chevy’s activation included giving World Series MVP George Springer a new Silverado truck.
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Outside of the beverage categories, T-Mobile was recognized by nearly one-third of the fans, the brand’s highest MLB level ever. The company spent $11 million advertising during MLB playoff telecasts, according to data from iSpot.tv, up 150 percent compared with the 2016 postseason.

Finally, the road was not as smooth for Falken, the league’s tire sponsor. Although its recognition level among casual fans went from zero in 2015 to 13 percent in 2017, the three-year-old partnership was recognized by less than 12 percent of the respondents.

What Brands Do MLB Fans Consider Buying?

To read: 50 percent of MLB fans said they would be more likely to consider buying from MLB’s official tire company if they knew what tire brand had that designation. The rate decreased to 12 percent when considering only those MLB fans who did not know that Falken is MLB’s official tire.

CATEGORY (mlb SPONSOR) AMONG MLB FANS WHO CORRECTLY IDENTIFIED THE SPONSOR among MLB FANS WHO DID NOT CORRECTLY IDENTIFY THE SPONSOR DIFFERENCE
Insurance (Esurance*) 55% 15% +40 pct. points
Tire (Falken) 50% 12% +38 pct. points
Beer (Budweiser) 66% 30% +36 pct. points
Bank (Bank of America) 66% 33% +33 pct. points
Wireless (T-Mobile) 63% 30% +33 pct. points
Pizza (Papa John’s) 73% 42% +31 pct. points
Credit card (Mastercard) 76% 49% +27 pct. points
Automotive (Chevrolet) 64% 40% +24 pct. points
Sports drink (Gatorade) 78% 55% +23 pct. points
Soft drink (Coca-Cola) 76% 59% +17 pct. points

What Brands Do Fans Think Are MLB Sponsors?

To read: 51 percent of MLB fans said they think Gatorade should be an MLB sponsor, compared to 22 percent who think rival Powerade should have an MLB deal. Those numbers became 65 percent and 28 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 THE SPONSOR
mlb SPONSOR/COMPETITOR RESPONSE RATES DIFFERENCE RESPONSE RATES DIFFERENCE
Gatorade/Powerade 51% / 22% +29 pct. pts. 65% / 28% +37 pct. pts.
Coca-Cola/Pepsi 66% / 44% +22 pct. pts. 75% / 39% +36 pct. pts.
Budweiser/Miller Lite 66% / 46% +20 pct. pts. 59% / 24% +35 pct. pts.
Bank of America/Wells Fargo 40% / 22% +18 pct. pts. 60% / 25% +35 pct. pts.
Papa John’s/Domino’s 38% / 30% +8 pct. pts. 54% / 30% +24 pct. pts.
Mastercard/Visa 44% / 56% -12 pct. pts. 59% / 47% +12 pct. pts.
Chevrolet/Ford 40% / 38% +2 pct. pts. 56% / 45% +11 pct. pts.
Falken/Michelin 7% / 38% -31 pct. pts. 24% / 39% -15 pct. pts.
T-Mobile/AT&T 29% / 46% -17 pct. pts. 44% / 36% +8 pct. pts.
Esurance*/Geico 12% / 34% -22 pct. pts. 38% / 30% +8 pct. pts.

Impact on Sampling and Support

Are you more or less likely to consider trying a product/service if that product/service is an official sponsor of MLB?

  Avid Casual
  2017 2016 2015 2017 2016 2015
More likely 58% 58% 52% 47% 40% 35%
Unaffected / less likely 42% 42% 48% 53% 60% 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?

  Avid Casual
  2017 2016 2015 2017 2016 2015
More likely 62% 57% 56% 47% 41% 37%
Unaffected / less likely 38% 43% 45% 53% 59% 63%

 

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?

  Avid Casual
  2017 2016 2015 2017 2016 2015
More likely 61% 53% 51% 47% 36% 36%
Unaffected / less likely 39% 47% 49% 53% 64% 64%

Which of the following is an official sponsor of the MLB?

  Avid Casual
beer
  2017 2016 2015 2017 2016 2015
Budweiser* 48.0% 52.0% 42.0% 48.5% 45.5% 41.0%
Miller Lite 11.0% 6.5% 11.0% 10.0% 10.0% 10.5%
Coors Light 7.0% 7.5% 8.0% 6.5% 8.0% 10.5%
Corona 6.5% 3.5% 7.5% 6.5% 3.5% 3.0%
I’m not sure 16.0% 19.5% 26.5% 21.5% 28.5% 32.5%
  Avid Casual
pizza
  2017 2016 2015 2017 2016 2015
Papa John’s* 42.0% NA NA 42.5% NA NA
Pizza Hut 14.5% NA NA 15.5% NA NA
Domino’s 12.0% NA NA 9.5% NA NA
Little Caesars 6.0% NA NA 4.5% NA NA
I’m not sure 17.0% NA NA 24.5% NA NA
  Avid Casual
soft drink
  2017 2016 2015 2017 2016 2015
Coca-Cola* 43.5% 19.0% 24.0% 39.0% 23.0% 15.5%
Pepsi 23.5% 53.5% 34.5% 24.5% 33.5% 30.5%
Dr Pepper 3.0% 1.5% 4.0% 3.5% 5.0% 4.5%
I’m not sure 21.0% 22.0% 30.5% 24.5% 30.0% 43.0%
  Avid Casual
sports drink
  2017 2016 2015 2017 2016 2015
Gatorade* 45.5% 56.0% 35.5% 37.0% 34.0% 38.0%
Red Bull 13.0% 7.5% 9.5% 8.0% 7.5% 7.0%
Powerade 7.0% 7.0% 6.0% 11.5% 9.5% 5.0%
I’m not sure 22.5% 25.5% 38.5% 32.5% 37.0% 45.0%
  Avid Casual
bank
  2017 2016 2015 2017 2016 2015
Bank of America* 38.5% 48.0% 31.5% 33.0% 28.5% 34.0%
Citibank 12.5% 5.0% 4.5% 8.0% 6.0% 7.0%
Wells Fargo 4.0% 8.5% 8.0% 8.0% 5.5% 5.5%
I’m not sure 29.0% 29.5% 43.0% 0.0% 43.0% 45.5%
  Avid Casual
wireless
  2017 2016 2015 2017 2016 2015
T-Mobile* 36.5% 36.5% 21.5% 28.0% 24.0% 21.0%
AT&T 19.5% 15.5% 21.0% 17.0% 11.0% 8.5%
Verizon 13.5% 12.0% 13.5% 14.0% 17.5% 11.0%
Sprint 3.0% 6.0% 4.5% 6.0% 5.5% 7.0%
I’m not sure 20.5% 26.5% 37.5% 28.5% 39.5% 50.5%
  Avid Casual
automobile
  2017 2016 2015 2017 2016 2015
Chevrolet* 31.0% 44.0% 33.5% 32.5% 25.0% 28.5%
Ford 15.5% 13.0% 13.5% 12.0% 16.5% 6.0%
Toyota 14.0% 10.0% 10.5% 12.5% 7.0% 5.5%
Dodge 3.5% 2.5% 7.0% 5.5% 5.0% 5.5%
I’m not sure 23.5% 25.5% 30.5% 33.0% 40.5% 49.0%
  Avid Casual
credit card
  2017 2016 2015 2017 2016 2015
Mastercard* 32.5% 43.5% 24.5% 27.5% 27.5% 23.5%
Visa 23.0% 21.0% 24.5% 23.5% 23.5% 17.5%
American Express 14.0% 8.0% 11.5% 12.5% 10.0% 8.0%
Discover 4.5% 3.5% 4.5% 5.5% 5.5% 3.5%
I’m not sure 26.0% 24.0% 34.0% 31.0% 33.5% 46.5%
  Avid Casual
insurance
  2017 2016 2015 2017 2016 2015
Geico 31.5% 19.0% 27.5% 26.5% 16.5% 16.5%
State Farm 24.5% 21.0% 26.0% 17.0% 18.0% 16.0%
Progressive 22.5% 11.0% 13.5% 14.5% 8.5% 10.5%
Esurance* 17.0% 26.5% 14.5% 16.0% 13.5% 14.5%
The Hartford* 14.0% 13.5% 10.0% 10.0% 8.5% 8.0%
I’m not sure 23.5% 26.0% 37.0% 33.5% 42.5% 50.5%
  Avid Casual
tire
  2017 2016 2015 2017 2016 2015
Goodyear 25.5% 18.5% 21.0% 28.0% 19.0% 18.5%
Falken* 10.5% 21.0% 5.0% 12.5% 14.0% 0.0%
Michelin 10.5% 8.5% 10.0% 9.5% 9.0% 7.5%
Firestone 11.0% 11.5% 13.5% 8.0% 11.5% 12.5%
I’m not sure 32.5% 37.5% 46.0% 38.5% 41.5% 57.0%

* Official MLB sponsor
^ Respondents were allowed to choose multiple responses.
NA: Not applicable; the company was not listed as a survey answer candidate in this particular year.


King of Beers

Budweiser's MLB partnership, which began in 1980, is the most recognized beer deal in sports.

LEAGUE-BEER (PARTNER SINCE) RECOGNITION RATE*
MLB-Budweiser (1980) 48.3%
NFL-Bud Light (2011) 45.9%
MLS-Heineken (2015)* 37.8%
NBA-Budweiser and
Bud Light (1998)
32.5%
PGA Tour-Michelob Ultra (1994) 30.0%
NASCAR-Coors Light (2008)* 29.8%
NHL-Coors Light (2011) 21.3%

Flat Tires?

Falken, MLB's tire sponsor, is still trying to find traction among baseball fans.

LEAGUE-TIRE (PARTNER SINCE) RECOGNITION RATE*
NASCAR-Goodyear (1997) 56.8%
NHL-Bridgestone (2007) 35.5%
PGA Tour-Bridgestone (2006) 31.3%
MLS-Continental (2010) 26.4%
MLB-Falken (2015) 11.5%

A Coke and a Smile

Coca-Cola had a strong rookie year after replacing Pepsi as MLB's official soda.

brand (sponsor history)
year Coca-Cola (2017-present) Pepsi (1997-2016)
2007 29.10% 29.10%
2008 32.10% 25.70%
2009 34.60% 28.70%
2010 29.50% 28.00%
2011 18.40% 37.50%
2012 22.30% 39.80%
2013 23.90% 31.70%
2014 21.80% 27.80%
2015 19.80% 32.50%
2016 21.00% 43.50%
2017 41.30% 24.00%

* Surveys were conducted during each property's most recent postseason, therefore data listed for MLS and NASCAR are from November 2016. Not all categories are tracked across all leagues. Response rates indicate the percentage of people polled who thought that the particular company or brand was the property's official sponsor in that category.