In a Thursday conference call with the media, Eric Shanks,
Fox Sports Media Group copresident and COO, described the Major Baseball
All-Star Game as "a jewel event" for the summer. When someone
from the press pointed out that the viewership of 10.9 million for last
summer's game was the lowest ever, Shanks said, "In context, of all the
entertainment choices available [on TV during the summer], the game is still
one of the most-watched events."
Fox televises the game, so Shanks of course would be
expected to talk it up. However, the advertising community, which is paying
close to $600,000 per 30-second commercial unit in the game's telecast, happens
to agree with him. The 84th annual MLB All-Star game on Tuesday,
July 16, was sold out about two weeks ago, much like it was last year, and
advertisers this year are more involved in the telecast of the game on Fox, as
well as the annual Home Run Derby telecast on ESPN on Monday, than ever.
Many MLB official sponsors like Chevrolet, T-Mobile,
MasterCard, Anheuser-Busch, Pepsi, Head & Shoulders and Bank of America are
launching new on-air creative campaigns or are activating around different
game-related events in New York City, where the game will be played.
Michael Falco, VP in charge of MLB ad sales at Fox Sports,
says the movie category has shown the most growth among advertisers in the
All-Star game this year, and there is also a strong presence of advertisers in
the automotive, wireless and consumer electronics categories.
"Most of the major movie studios are in the game and
there are a lot more than in past years," Falco says. Why? About 65% of
the All-Star game viewers are men, and a good number of the movies coming out
through the summer and into the fall are geared to them.
"We do have some first-time advertisers in the
game, but a lot of returning advertisers increased their investment, and most
of those are official MLB sponsors," Falco says.
The telecast has four 30-second units per half inning;
however, there are also a countless number of commercial breaks for pitching
changes. During the All-Star game, there are many of those ads, called
Falco said with the game being played at Citi Field, home of
the New York Mets, "we got a lot of sales traction earlier this year than
in the past. We sold a lot of inventory for the All-Star game in April and May
during the upfront when we began selling our regular season inventory."
Fox itself is taking advantage of the sizable audience and
will run a specially created 90-second promotional spot touting its new Fox
Sports 1 cable network, which launches on Aug. 17. Falco said that lengthy
in-house ad will take the place of three 30-second spots the network usually
uses to promote its broadcast primetime shows.
This past week, Fox set up a mini whiffle ball stadium in a
pavilion outside its New York headquarters on Sixth Avenue to draw attention to
the game telecast and to the new Fox Sports 1 network.
While neither Falco, the ad sales folks at ESPN or MLB would
comment on buys of specific advertisers, sources familiar with the sales
process said about 50% of the ads on Fox and ESPN in the All-Star Game and Home
Run Derby will come from official MLB sponsors, up from between 30%-35% last
T-Mobile, the official wireless sponsor of MLB, will be
advertising in its first All-Star Game since becoming a new MLB sponsor in
January. T-Mobile will run newly created ads in both the Home Run Derby
on Monday and the All-Star Game on Tuesday, including a baseball-themed spot
with Adrian Gonzalez of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
T-Mobile is also the new title sponsor of the All-Star
FanFest at Jacob Javits Center that will run from Friday through Tuesday. It
will be a supporting sponsor of the MLB All-Star 5K & Fun Run on Saturday
and will also wrap a MTA 7 elevated subway train that passes by Citi Field.
T-Mobile also recently signed endorsement deals with MLB
players Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals, Matt Kemp and Gonzalez of the
Dodgers and Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Chevrolet, the official vehicle of MLB, is the title sponsor
of the Home Run Derby (succeeding State Farm), and will use the event to launch
the new 2014 Silverado. The winner of the Derby will be presented with the new truck, as will the winner of the All-Star Game MVP award.
New commercials will air during the Derby on ESPN and
Chevrolet is making assorted donations to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America
and MLB's Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities based on the number of home runs
Chevy will also have a number of activations around the
All-Star events, such as: presenting sponsor of the MLB All-Star Red Carpet
Show on MLB Network on Tuesday prior to the Fox pre-game telecast; presenting
sponsor of both the Fox All-Star Game pre-game show and ESPN Baseball
Tonight prior to the Home Run Derby; an expanded presence at the T-Mobile
All-Star FanFest; supporting sponsor of both the All-Star 5K run and a special
concert in New York's Central Park on Saturday; and setting up a test track
outside Citi Field to showcase its vehicles.
MasterCard, the official credit card of MLB, will premiere
three new "Stand Up to Cancer"-related commercials during the Home
Run Derby on ESPN. Two of the spots will feature New York Mets mascots Mr.
& Mrs. Met and the Philadelphia Phillies mascot the Phillie Phanatic
putting their pranks aside to sit down together for a meal in the name of the
A third MasterCard spot will feature Eric Stonestreet of Modern
Family visiting patrons at different restaurants thanking them for choosing
MasterCard when dining out that resulted in contributions the company is making
to Stand Up to Cancer.
MasterCard also hosted a party at the MLB Fan Cave in New
York on Thursday night to raise money for Stand Up to Cancer, and is also a supporting
sponsor of the Central Park concert.
Anheuser-Busch, the official beer of MLB, will air two
30-second commercials during the Home Run Derby on ESPN and three spots during
the All-Star Game on Fox. One of them will be a baseball-themed commercial.
Anheuser-Busch has also distributed 50,000 cases of
Budweiser cans and bottles throughout the New York metro area with the All-Star
Game logo and has set up displays in Grand Central Station and at the Willets
Point (Citi Field) stop. Like Chevy, A-B will also have sponsor area outside of
Bank of America, the official bank of MLB, will debut two
new 60-second spots that will honor military men and women. During the seventh
inning stretch, fans will be asked to participate in a standing salute to honor
the military. The total attendance in the stadium will be counted toward the
company's "Express Your Thanks" program goal.
Beginning Friday, Bank of America will have a special booth
set up near Times Square's electronic billboard, where people can show their
appreciation to service members and veterans by taking pictures in front of a
patriotic backdrop. Photos will be shown on the billboard.
Head & Shoulders, the official shampoo of MLB, has had a
MTA 7 train wrapped with MLB-themed branding, including images of players, for
the past month. And the brand will sponsor an in-game integration on Fox.
Pepsi, the official beverage of MLB, will air a
baseball-themed spot during the All-Star Game, while Lipton, a new MLB sponsor,
will have a strong presence at the FanFest.
MLB Network, in addition to its Red Carpet show prior to the
game on Tuesday, will have extensive pre- and post-game coverage of the Home
Run Derby and the All-Star Game. Each of their shows will have presenting
sponsors, including MLB Tonight presented by Firestone; International
Talk presented by MLB Authentic Collection; and MLB Now presented by
MasterCard, which will air live from batting practice at both events.
In addition to the Home Run Derby, ESPN will televise the
2013 Taco Bell All-Star Legends and Celebrity Softball Game immediately
following the conclusion of the Derby. ESPN2 on Sunday at 2 p.m. will
televise the Sirius/XM All-Star Futures Game, which features the best minor
league professional players and future stars of the MLB.
The last telecast of an All-Star game from New York was in
2008 when the game was played at Yankee Stadium in the final year before the
Yankees moved to a new ballpark a few blocks away. That game drew 14.5 million
viewers. Surely, Fox is hoping for a viewer surge that would match that
total, but it doesn't seem likely.
One reason for that was discussed on the conference call
when veteran analyst Tim McCarver, who will be calling his last All-Star game
on Tuesday, and game play-by-play announcer Joe Buck agreed with one media
caller who hypothesized that attendance has been declining more so over the
past few years because of the lack of recognizable stars in the game. Gone are
the superstars like Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., Roger Clemens and Alex
Rodriguez. Even if some of those players are now under a dark cloud because of
alleged performance-enhancing drug use, they were able to draw in casual fans
that today's young, up-and-coming All-Stars are not able to.
For sure, 20-year-old All-Stars like Bryce Harper, Mike
Trout and Manny Machado are among the best players in the game right now, but
they don't have the national mass appeal yet that some of their veteran
predecessor stars had.
This year's game does have a couple of potential draws. This
will be the last All-Star Game appearance for New York Yankee veteran
reliever Mariano Rivera, perhaps the best relief pitcher to ever play the game,
who is retiring after this season. And the young, New York Met phenom pitcher
Matt Harvey, one of the best in the game in only his first full season after a
short stint last year, might start the game in his home ballpark.
But even if 10 million viewers tune in, it still makes the
All-Star Game the most viewed live event of the summer. And it's another one of
those opportunities for marketers to target those hard-to-reach men.
While some members of the media are taking shots at the
declining viewership, advertisers in the game could not seem to care less. With
all the money they have spent on new creative commercials and ad time, it seems
that they agree with Shanks that the "summer classic" is more of a
jewel than costume jewelry.