On Eve of Olympics, Marketers Play Ball With MLB

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Major brands are once again jumping on board the marketing bandwagon surrounding the annual summer classic, the 87th Major League Baseball All-Star Game from San Diego’s Petco Park. This time, they are looking to score big not only with advertising during ESPN’s Home Run Derby (July 11) and Fox’s game telecast (July 12) but also with numerous on-site promotions and sponsorships.

Heading into this weekend, Fox’s telecast of the game is just about sold out, with the usual couple of units being held back for last-minute sales. A total of nine MLB official sponsors will be advertisings during the Fox broadcast of the game this year: MasterCard, General Motors/Chevrolet, Pepsi, Bank of America, T-Mobile, Procter & Gamble, Gatorade, Intel and Apple. The last two from that list are new MLB sponsors and new to the telecast this year. Other first-time advertisers in the game telecast include Geico and Hewlett-Packard.

Sources say that Papa John’s, also an official MLB sponsor, could potentially buy up the remaining couple of units, but that was not confirmed by Fox.

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League partners activating promotions onsite in the days leading up to the All-Star Game include: Bank of America, Church & Dwight, Esurance, The Hartford, Gatorade, Levi’s, Starwood, Nike, Papa John’s, Scotts, Stance and TuneIn.

MasterCard is the new presenting sponsor of the All-Star Game on Fox, replacing T-Mobile, which is the new title sponsor of the Home Run Derby on ESPN, replacing Gillette. T-Mobile will also be presenting sponsor of two ESPN Baseball Tonight shows on Home Run Derby night, one airing from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. and the other from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. leading into the derby.

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Advertisers are paying an average $575,000 per 30-second commercial in the game telecast on Fox this year, similar to last year, although pricing varies based on the amount of spots or types of packages bought. Some are paying north of the average and some paying lower, according to sources familiar with the situation.

Marketers continue to fork over the hefty price of commercial time in the game despite declining viewership. Last year the game averaged 10.9 million viewers, tying it with the lowest audience ever that was also recorded in 2012. In 2014, the game averaged 11.3 million viewers.

Still MLB All-Star Game is the most-watched among all-star games for the Big Four professional sports, outdrawing the NBA, NFL (Pro Bowl) and NHL contests. And this year’s game is sold out even though it had to compete for ad dollars with the Summer Olympics on NBC, which begin in August.

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A total of 72 units were sold for the game (a number set by MLB), however Fox has also sold “floater” ads, which are commercials that run during mid-inning pitching changes and would air during the game if it goes extra innings.

Neil Mulcahy, executive VP, Fox Sports ad sales, says the timing of the Olympics and the massive chunk of ad dollars it pulls in “might have affected sales to a slight degree but we are still basically sold out heading into the game.” He says the Olympics impacted the timing of the All-Star game sales more than causing marketers not to jump in. “There are still a lot of marketers who want to run summer campaigns,” he says.

Mulcahy adds that the one night, live aspect of the game also makes it attractive to marketers. “It is the most-watched show on television that night and it is a telecast that people tend to watch in groups so there a multiple viewers in households and also a high level of out-of-home viewing.”

Mark Evans, senior VP, Fox Sports ad sales, says viewers also tend to watch commercials more attentively during big event sports telecasts, so that’s also a plus for marketers advertising in the game.

The five strongest ad categories in the All-Star game are auto, teleco, pharmaceuticals, movies and technology. Evans says pharmaceutical companies have been increasing their investments, but growing at an even larger rate has been technology ad dollars, evidenced by new MLB sponsors and All-Star game advertisers Apple and Intel. Evans says other tech advertisers in the game include Dell, Samsung and Hewlett-Packard.

In addition to being the presenting sponsor of the All-Star game for the first time, MasterCard is also working on a variety of activities in San Diego. MasterCard and MLB are working together with Fox to present youth ambassadors at the All-Star Game. Kids will be selected to walk out on the field with each of the All-Star players as they are announced. And MasterCard will again feature its Stand Up To Cancer campaign throughout the several days of All-Star festivities, including a segment between one of the innings in which all the fans at the game will stand in between one of the innings.

Intel during the game telecast will sponsor segments where replays are shown using its 360-degree angle technology, similar to that used during the NBA playoff telecasts.

Chevrolet will sponsor the All-Star Game MVP Award for the 12th consecutive year and the winner will be presented with the keys to a new Chevy car or truck. Chevrolet is also sponsoring the MLB All-Star Red Carpet Show on MLB Network that will feature the All-Stars driving from their downtown hotels to the Petco Park field on game day. And Chevy is also presenting “Catch a Chevy,” which will provide rides to people in downtown San Diego during All-Star week.

The All-Star Summer Pepsi Block Party returns for the third year. It will take place right outside Petco Park and run three days (Sunday through Tuesday) leading up to the game. It will create a tailgate-like atmosphere outside the stadium and will feature live music from the Pepsi Music Series, along with food and interactive attractions. Among the block party sponsors are MLB League partners Budweiser, Bank of America, Church & Dwight, Esurance, Papa John’s and T-Mobile.

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The Pepsi Music Series is being held for the second year and will include musical performances at events such as the MLB All-Star Gala, MLB.com All-Star Game Party and Gatorade All-Star Workout Day. Among the performers will be Gwen Stefani, OneRepublic and Tori Kelly.

Budweiser is also sponsoring the Budweiser All-Star Concerts, which are part of the Pepsi Music Series. Budweiser will also have footprints at the Pepsi Block Party and other events.

Budweiser parent company Anheuser-Busch will create a macro beer garden and is bringing a Bud & Burgers truck to San Diego. It will also be presenting sponsor of the Negro Leagues Attractions at All-Star Fan Fest.  A_B will also have pop-up stands and a small Build-a-Bar at Fan Fest, in addition to a Michelob Ultra Build-a-Bar at the Color Run All-Star 5K Presented by Nike.

Esurance, the official car insurance of MLB, is holding the Esurance All-Star Game Challenge on July 10 from noon to 1 p.m. at The Diamond inside Fan Fest. It will feature celebrity team captains Joel McHale and Andy Cohen facing off in a baseball-themed competition testing their bat flip skills, baseball trivia knowledge and home run hitting skills. Also participating will be MLB Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith and Rickey Henderson, along with winners of the Esurance MLB All-Star Sweepstakes.

The Fan Fest will be held at the San Diego Convention Center and all fans attending will get a chance to star in their own All-Star moment at the Esurance Diamond, using a 360-degree video that will be sent directly to their device and be shareable on social media channels.

Consumer product licensees will also be activating more heavily at the All-Star Game site than in previous years.

New Era is hosting a by invitation-only pool party for celebrities and athletes. Collaborating with New Era at the VIP party are fellow MLB licensees Levi’s, Sony, Stance and Topps. New Era will also double its retail and consumer activation space from last year at the Fan Fest.

With San Diego serving as one of the largest military communities in the world, Majestic, the official uniform provider for MLB, will promote its Salute to the Military campaign. Majestic and Aramark began operating a pop-up shop on the flight deck of the USS Midway on July 6, where San Diego Padres military jerseys and other merchandise is being sold. Majestic will also have the largest footprint of all licensees at the All-Star FanFest.

Topps, the official baseball card of MLB, will be conducting its Topps Now campaign throughout All-Star Week, including a booth at FanFest. Topps Now makes baseball cards available for a limited time the day after a game is played. Special cards will be made available on Saturday and Sunday, July 9-10, featuring players from the MLB Futures Games, Home Run Derby and All-Star Game. Topps will also offer All-Star Edition complete sets and sponsor an exclusive giveaway for MasterCard holders.

Joe Buck will be calling his record 18th All-Star Game for Fox and will be joined in the booth by MLB Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz, who will be making his All-Star game announcing debut. Fox pre-game coverage will also once again feature 17-time All-Star Pete Rose as an analyst.

The Home Run Derby on ESPN will be televised beginning at 8 p.m. on Monday, July 11 with veteran dinger-caller Chris Berman joined by analysts Aaron Boone and Jessica Mendoza. Immediately following the Derby, ESPN will televise the MLB Legends & Celebrity Softball All-Star Game that will be taped on Sunday.