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MBPT Spotlight: Marketers Continue To Flock To The MLB All-Star Game

For the past three seasons, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game on Fox has drawn about 11 million viewers each time, and while that’s not exactly the equivalent of an opposite-field home run, it’s usually the most-watched special sports event of the summer (in non-World Cup years). It’s also one that advertisers are particularly attracted to. And this year’s 85th annual All-Star Game on Tuesday, July 15 will be no different.

The All-Star game draws families, particularly lots of dads with their kids, and that type of programming is hard to find anywhere on TV today, especially during the summer months.

A total of 13 MLB official sponsors will be advertising during the Fox broadcast of the game this year, which is more than last year. They include Gillette, Anheuser-Busch, Chevrolet, Gatorade, T-Mobile, Nike, Head & Shoulders, MasterCard, Firestone, Church & Dwight, Pepsi, Taco Bell and Target.

Seven MLB sponsors will be advertising in ESPN’s telecast of the MLB Home Run Derby on Monday night, July 14. They include new Home Run Derby title sponsor Gillette, Anheuser-Busch, Chevrolet, Firestone, MasterCard, Pepsi and Taco Bell.

A new event this year, the Pepsi All-Star Summer Block Party, will take place during the three days leading up to the game (Sunday through Tuesday). It will create a tailgate-like atmosphere outside Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins and site of the game. The event will feature live music, food from celebrity chefs and interactive attractions sponsored by various MLB partners including Anheuser-Busch, Chevrolet and Target.

Neil Mulcahy, executive VP of Fox Sports ad sales, says the game telecast is about 95% sold out and could have been totally sold, but the network has held back a few units. “We have a couple of new advertisers but most of those who were in the game last year are back this year,” he says. “It’s a very desirable place for advertisers to be.”

Mulcahy says he is hoping that additional promotion on Fox Sports 1, which premiered after the All-Star Game last year, will reach more fans and draw in a bigger audience on Fox. He also believes that New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter’s last All-Star appearance before retiring at the end of this season will also draw more baseball fans to the game.

The game telecast, he says, has been pretty much sold out since the May broadcast upfront, but the bulk of the sales were done in February and March, prior to the start of this year’s MLB season.

The categories with the most advertisers are automotive, QSRs and mobile phones.

Michael Falco, VP in charge of MLB ad sales at Fox says ad inventory for the All-Star Game was selling at prices in the mid- to upper-single digits, higher than last year. While Falco didn’t comment on unit pricing, other sources familiar with the ad sales say Fox was getting north of $550,000 per 30-second spot, with some units selling in the $600,000 range.

After this weekend, Fox will have only four more regular season MLB weekend windows, and Falco says they are also about 95% sold. Those games should draw larger audiences than its games so far this summer, as teams will be in the pennant races during the month leading up to the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs.

Back In the Game

T-Mobile, the official wireless sponsor of MLB, for the second year will sponsor the All-Star FanFest, a five-day interactive baseball carnival that will take over the Minneapolis Convention Center. Among the All-Stars expected to appear are Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder and last season’s National League Most Valuable Player Andrew McCutchen and Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton.

Gillette replaces Chevrolet as Home Run Derby title sponsor after just one year. State Farm had been the longtime title sponsor of the event, but that arrangement ended after 2012. Gillette, designated as the official shaving products of MLB, will be celebrating its 75th anniversary as an MLB sponsor, the longest relationship in North American pro sports. 

Gillette will promote its newest razor, the Fusion ProGlide, with commercials during the Home Run Derby telecast on ESPN, and also with integration within the broadcast. And it will also promote the brand through on-site activation.

Target, the official retailer of MLB, has its home base in Minnesota and also its name on the Minnesota Twins stadium. The retailer will be promoting its partnership with MLB and People magazine in the People All-Star Teachers program that will honor 30 teachers—one representing each MLB team market.

Target will also serve as title sponsor of the All-Star Concert on Saturday night, July 12, featuring Imagine Dragons with Atmosphere.

Chevrolet, the official vehicle of MLB, will sponsor the All-Star Game MVP Award and the winner will be presented with a new vehicle on the field following the announcement at the end of the game. Chevrolet is also sponsor of the MLB All-Star Red Carpet Show that will air on MLB Network on July 15 at 3 p.m., which will feature the players arriving at the stadium.

As they did last year, the All-Star team members from both leagues will parade through the streets in Chevy trucks on their way to Target Field on game day.

Anheuser-Busch, the official beer of MLB, will produce and distribute 76,000 cases of Budweiser beers featuring special MLB and All-Star logos throughout the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. That would total about 1.2 million cans and bottles. The world-famous Clydesdales will also make appearances throughout All-Star week in and around Target Field.

Other sponsors who will be activating promotions on-site through the days leading up to the game include: MasterCard, Bank of America, Gatorade, Scotts, Church & Dwight, Kellogg’s, Head & Shoulders and Firestone.

MLB has also created a new partnership with the animated classic strip Peanuts, since creator Charles Schultz was from the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Giant statues of the Peanuts gang, including Charlie Brown and Snoopy, will be on site in Minnesota Twins gear, and miniature collectible versions will be available.

Shots Heard Round the World

The Home Run Derby on Monday night will not only air on ESPN but also on ESPN Deportes. ESPN Radio and ESPN Deportes radio will both broadcast both the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game, while ESPN International will televise both the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game in South America, Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean and on cruise ships.

ESPN will also televise the 2014 Taco Bell All-Star Legends and Celebrity Softball Game on Monday night immediately following the conclusion of the Home Run Derby.

MLB Network will televise the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game for the first time on Sunday, July 13 at 5 p.m., which will feature some of the best minor league prospects.

Multiple crews from MLB partner MTV will be on site in the days leading up to the game, filming content for its show Off the Bat from the MLB Fan Cave which has been airing weekly on MTV2 since the start of this season.

And Fox Sports 1 will air a live, All-Star Game pregame show from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday night.

Not to be outdone, Major League Baseball will also use the ESPN and Fox telecasts to debut a new commercial promoting the MLB postseason games. The spot was created by BBDO. It showcases highlights from recent World Series and postseasons, stressing that once the All-Star Game ends, the race for October and the World Series begins in earnest.

Joe Buck will be calling his record 16th All-Star Game for Fox and his first with new broadcast partners Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci. Those tuning in will also get to see what Fox is calling “the most technologically advanced MLB All-Star Game broadcast in history,” which will include one new tech offering and several production enhancements used previously.

Last year’s All-Star Game telecast on Fox drew 10.96 million viewers and a 3.2 18-49 demo rating, almost the exact sized audience of the 2012 Game which was 10.9 million and a 3.2. The 2011 game drew 10.97 million viewers and a 3.1 demo rating.

The Home Run Derby on ESPN last summer drew 6.65 million viewers and a 2.6 18-49 rating, compared to 6.88 million viewers and a 2.7 in 2012.

But the TV ratings seem less important to all the marketers who just want to be part of the event, including on-site participation. In fact, Tim Brosnan, executive VP, business for Major League Baseball, says MLB partner activation for this year’s All-Star Game has grown from last year’s game held in New York at the Mets’ Citi Field.

“Our sponsors continue to see the value of using jewel events like this to reach the millions of passionate baseball fans that are engaged with the sport in more ways than ever before,” Brosnan says. “With baseball-themed fan events, a concert, a 5K run, community events, a Red Carpet parade, social media executions and three days of ballpark activities, the MLB All-Star Week gives sponsors an opportunity to reach fans in countless ways.”