BofA sponsor chief: ‘We’re willing to walk’
As a sponsor of Major League Baseball since 2004, with team deals in baseball’s largest markets, Bank of America swings a heavy bat among corporate sponsors. During the recent MLB All-Star Game, longtime BofA sponsorship chief Charles Greenstein discussed some key industry issues.
How are you fitting MLB into your overall messaging and how has that changed?
We look for brand/product messaging and amplification, community impact, along with client and fan engagement, for our MLB assets, which includes our league deal and seven team deals with the Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, Giants, Cardinals, Astros and Orioles. Those assets allow us to differentiate in the local markets. League rights are the connective tissue, but it’s the clubs that allow us to deliver it all.
Overall, we’re still centered on mobile banking, the “It’s better when we’re connected” message about our mobile banking offerings.
How healthy is MLB?
There’s ratings slippage across sports, and across TV, really. MLB ratings are OK. We’ve seen attendance down a bit this year, which started with weather. The bigger issue, I believe, is cost of entry across sports. You’ve seen what the Atlanta Falcons have done with concession pricing and what the Baltimore Orioles have done with free tickets for kids. … If ratings continue to slip, you have to wonder if media outlets can continue to sell ad units for enough. I keep saying it will fall in on itself, but that hasn’t happened yet.
That’s media, what about on the sponsorship side?
It’s only slightly different. I have a large team renewal and they are asking for a 25 percent increase. … You wonder if they are just throwing numbers against the wall. They were talking about ratings and attendance increases, but if we’re doing our jobs right, we were some part of that. So I told them they owe us a check for $3.1 million and here’s why. This was a conversation that started with them saying “Our brand stands on its own, it’s iconic, it’s not about revenue needs” and ended with “We’re under a lot of pressure to get more sponsorship money.” What a lot of them don’t understand is that we’re willing to walk, and there are more sponsors feeling that way.
Is that an isolated example?
Well, I look at some new facilities, like the Sports & Entertainment District being built in L.A. for the Chargers and the Rams. We’ve done the analysis and I have a hard time seeing how you can get a multiple on the return as a founding sponsor for what they are asking. (Editor’s note: The asking price is $10 million and up.) I feel the same way about what Chase paid for the [Golden State Warriors’] new arena, but they badly wanted entry to that market and the whole West Coast.
As a longtime baseball sponsor, how do you feel about legal bookmakers potentially becoming a fellow sponsor?
Today, you’re not going to see Bank of America, or any bank, associate itself with gambling, or even on the same page, or in the same commercial pod. I think it brings the whole game into question. You saw what the ATP did, banning gambling sponsorships. I find it interesting that the leagues and teams are looking at this and saying they want their piece. I struggle with it. But it’s probably the next great frontier as leagues and teams look for new revenue.