New deal to bring digital screens to MiLB parks
Minor League Baseball believes its new deal with Pennsylvania-based venue technology company ISM Connect will open up a new realm of corporate marketing within the affiliated minors and create a potentially lucrative revenue source for clubs.
ISM Connect will spend a minimum of $15 million, and likely much more, to install a digital network of high-definition video display screens with interactive games and experiences, social media integrations, digital marketing and other content. MiLB and ISM Connect are targeting at least 50 team installations in the multiyear pact, with 40 of those projected to be ready for the start of the 2019 season.
“Before, getting your logo in and around Minor League Baseball still often involved one outfield billboard at a time. Now we have the opportunity to create all sorts of takeover moments and unique activations across dozens of partners,” said Kent Heyman, ISM Connect chief executive. “When you think about something like the minors, which really doesn’t have a lot of national TV exposure, a digital network like this is a way to connect sponsors with fans in a way that still enhances their experience at the park.”
Over the past two years. MiLB has seen a strong of run of sponsorship growth amid agreements with the likes of Bush’s Beans, Crayola, John Deere, Sunrun and several other national-level companies. But the installation of ISM Connect’s digital network, a series of interactive display screens at dozens of ballparks, creates a powerful trove of new sales inventory.
Financial terms of the ISM Connect-MiLB deal were not disclosed. But ISM Connect will bear the front-end capital expense of installing the screens and related technology, estimated at $300,000 to $500,000 per club, with each ballpark getting about a dozen screens. The company, MiLB, and the yet-to-be-announced participating teams will each sell against the digital network and share in the generated revenue, with clubs retaining half of the sales revenue attributed to them.
“Our clubs are adept at generating revenue in their local markets,” said David Wright, MiLB chief marketing and commercial officer. “Now, they will also have another piece of inventory we think will be incredibly valuable and will also be a way to fold in additional national-level brands.”
MiLB later this month is expected to announce a major U.S. brand as the naming-rights partner for the newly created digital network. That brand will have category exclusivity, though with some limited grandfathered exceptions.
For MiLB, the deal extends an ongoing push to use technology to boost its annual attendance from about 42 million to 50 million by 2026. The effort has also included partnerships with artificial intelligence company Satisfi Labs, payment and loyalty program technology provider FIS Global and Tickets.com.
ISM Connect’s prior history in sports has been concentrated in motorsports, and the company is the new naming-rights partner for what was once known as Phoenix International Raceway, and has a similar digital network installed there.