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MLB Marketing Comes Out Swinging For The 2018 Season

MediaPost, March 27, 2018

By Barry Janoff

This weekend may be the culmination of March Madness with the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Div. I Final Four and National Championship games, but that won’t keep MLB in the dugout.

On March 29, for the first time since 1968, every MLB team will begin the season on the same day.

While the New York Yankees were occupied signing Giancarlo Stanton, the Los Angeles Angels signing Shohei Ohtani and the Philadelphia Phillies Jake Arrieta, MLB has been on its own signing spree.

Among new deals that MLB has inked in recent weeks are Snapple, Barbasol, SuperCuts, Mitel, Netspend and Kingsford; plus expanding its alliance with YouTube TV and unveiling a $30 million pact to air weekly, mid-day games exclusively on Facebook Watch.

Among those companies signed during the 2017 post-season and now coming into their first full campaign as MLB partners are Camping World and several of its divisions — including Overton, Good Sam Club, The House and Windward/W82 — Doosan Group and YouTube, which was presenting sponsor for the 2017 World Series and will maintain that position for the 2018 and 2019 World Series.

This season, MLB intends to let people know that “Opening Day: The Hype is Real,” via a multi-platform campaign to include TV, Internet and social media.

The lead two-minute spot features many of the game’s top players — including Stanton, teammate Aaron Judge, World Series MVP George Springer and other members of the defending World Series champion Houston Astros — with action played out to the driving rap beat, “Icon” by Jaden Smith.

Anticipate seeing Judge — the American League Rookie of the Year last season who hit a MLB rookie-record 52 home runs in 2017 — as the new face of MLB in marketing and activation.

Last season, he was just the second rookie in MLB history whose jersey was the best-seller for the entire season (joining Kris Bryant in 2015). This month, he helped MLB partner Topps to set trading card record when his No. 1 Living Set card sold more than 13,000 in a week.

MLB is also planning to highlight another aspect of attending ball games: eating.

MLB will present its first MLB FoodFest, scheduled for April 21-22, to be held in New York.

According to MLB, the FoodFest — with the theme “30 Ballparks. 1 Plate” — features special selections from each of the 30 clubs served under one roof.

“This is not your average ballpark food,” MLB explains on the FoodFest Web site. “While we keep some of the fan favorites, each ballpark has picked an item they feel shows off the level of culinary experience you receive at their stadium.”

Also on the calendar this season is one of the league’s most popular promotions.

More than half of MLB’s team will conduct Bark in the Park, Pups in the Park and similar promo days, where people can attend games with their pooches to raise funds and awareness for such national efforts as the Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) — under the auspices of former MLB manager and Hall of Famer Tony La Russa — and other national and local pet rescue/adoption centers.

MLB hit a record one-season mark in 2017 with sponsorship deals totaling a $892 million, according to research and consulting firm ESP Properties, Chicago.

MLB sponsorship spending is again expected to rise this year as it steadily has over the past several years, from $663 million in 2013, $695 million in 2014, $778 million in 2015 and $827 million in 2016, per ESP.