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Volume 21 No. 48
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Big media spender Geico takes over MLB deal from Esurance

As the season is about to change, so is one of the principal sponsors at Major League Baseball.

Esurance, long considered across the industry as an archetypal client for the “One Baseball” regime ushered in with the installation of Rob Manfred as commissioner in January 2015, is out at internet speed. However, MLB is quickly replacing the Allstate-owned digital insurance brand with one of the biggest media spenders in a category where spending beyond market share has been routine for decades: Geico.


The Berkshire Hathaway-owned insurer is generally more interested in media buys than the intellectual property and hefty rights fees associated with most large sports sponsorships. Of course, since the regime change to “One Baseball,” MLB’s sponsorship business has also moved in that direction, so it looks like a good fit.


MLB joins a sponsorship portfolio at Geico that includes deals with the NHL, ACC and Ty Dillon’s No. 13 Germain Racing Chevy on NASCAR’s top circuit, along with more than 60 MLB, MLS, NBA, NHL and NFL team deals, according to RGLive.


We’re told that Geico is unlikely to assume the All-Star Game online balloting sponsorship, which Esurance had since taking over much of the insurance category in 2015, so we’ll be interested to see where that asset ends up.


MLB’s insurance category remains bifurcated, with The Hartford still having rights in the business insurance, homeowners insurance and employee benefits sectors.


LATEST BEAUTY CONTEST: In what is surely the biggest agency review so far this year, Wells Fargo has put its enormous sports account into review. MKTG has held the account for around five years. Sources said the review included both tactical and strategic elements, with one agency saying the whole thing was “largely a procurement exercise.”


Wells Fargo has more than 40 pro and college team sponsorships in its portfolio. Incumbent MKTG is defending.


Many agencies are conflicted, but we are told that a massive original list of 10-plus is being trimmed. Participants familiar to SportsBusiness Journal readers include Endeavor, GMR and Wasserman. Other established agencies, including Momentum Worldwide (American Express) and Octagon (Bank of America), are prevented from participating because of client conflicts.


An agency principal said that some of the recent consumer abuse scandals that have damaged the Wells Fargo brand has it looking for new sorts of marketing solutions. “Their issues have become so big, they are taking a look at just who can help rescue their brand,” he said.


NEW APPAREL DEAL: Genesco Sports Enterprises has quietly won an agency shootout to do the marketing behind Under Armour’s MLB deal, which includes placement of its logo on MLB on-field uniforms beginning next year. The Dallas-based agency is expected to open a satellite office at Under Armour.


Genesco does not have extensive experience in licensed apparel marketing. However, its experience handling MLB sponsors and a client roster that currently includes MLB rights holder T-Mobile and Pepsi/Frito-Lay, which lost MLB rights to Coke last year, helped it win the account.


Terry Lefton can be reached at