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Volume 23 No. 24
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What resonated with fans among MLB sponsors?

T-Mobile continues to make a strong connection

Thirty-four percent of Major League Baseball fans correctly identified T-Mobile as the league’s official wireless partner, according to the 13th annual MLB Sponsor Breakthrough study fielded recently for Sports Business Journal by Turnkey Intelligence. It was the brand’s highest recognition level in the seven seasons it has held those rights, and double the awareness the company had in our 2013 study.

Recognition compared to 2018 survey

+7% points: Chevrolet — Added deals with 15 clubs and further aligned with MLB’s youth initiatives.

+7% points: Papa John’s — Strong comeback after activation suspended by MLB and several teams.

+4% points: Budweiser — Almost half of its $11.3 million in MLB TV advertising came in October.

+2% points: Hankook — One of the league’s biggest spenders ($9 million) ran the same spot 740 times in 2019.

The company’s magenta branding gained added exposure this year after T-Mobile signed a 25-year, $87.5 million ballpark naming-rights deal in Seattle. Additionally, T-Mobile increased its World Series TV ad spend to $10.9 million, up 25% compared to the 2018 matchup, according to SBJ’s analysis of data.

Other notable findings from the data:

Coca-Cola, the league’s official soda for the past three seasons, saw its recognition rate increase by 5 percentage points, to 44%. That figure matches the highest level ever attained by Pepsi (in our 2016 study), MLB’s soda partner from 1997-2016.

Geico enjoyed an increase in awareness for the third consecutive study. The company’s rate has doubled since 2017, the year before replacing esurance.

Budweiser was the league’s most recognized partner (47%) for the eighth straight year. 

Ad effectiveness

Turnkey draws from its database of more than 400 ads to analyze the impact of creative spots running on sports programming.

Grade: 7 (GOOD)

A ballpark hot dog vendor says he has been to a lot of games but doesn’t see the plays on the field because — like the bank — his focus is on the fans. The spot engaged its audience very well, but Bank of America’s branding did not break through particularly well.


Grade: 7 (GOOD)

After two baseball fans decide that the game’s outcome will force one of them to shave his head, the mostly bald actor Michael Kelly tells them that if he had hair he would go to Supercuts, who would “obsess over every precious follicle until I looked amazing.” The ad was likable and engaging, but low branding strength hurt its overall score.