Politics and sports have intertwined more frequently than ever in recent years, especially concerning gender and equity issues. I’ll be fascinated to see if any of the most divisive national debates — those around gun control and abortion — latch onto sports as a platform. We’ve already witnessed a bit of that in the days following the abhorrent killings in Uvalde, Texas.
“Great marketers all listen first … and any important deal is never made on the telephone; it’s got to be done in person.” –Donald Dell
As the MLB ad patch market continues to percolate, here’s another intriguing sales assignment: Two Circles has triumphed in an agency shootout to sell the Phillies’ 4×4-inch sleeve patch that all players will wear beginning next season.
Phillies VP/Partnership Sales and Corporate Marketing Jackie Cuddeback said the review included eight agencies and lasted around two-and-a-half months. “Two Circles just stood out,” she said. “They have a very data-driven approach, which will be key, along with great successes in Europe, impressive creativity, and attention to detail.”
As its first stateside sales assignment, this is a significant win for Two Circles, a UK-based agency with a heritage including selling massive kit sponsorships for the likes of Chelsea, AC Milan and the All Blacks rugby team in New Zealand. That’s led to more than $900 million in jersey sponsorship sales over the past seven years.
“There’s been considerable interest in all of these [patch deals] because of the amount of static camera exposure MLB is offering for the first time,” said Jason Miller, who heads properties at Excel Sports Management, the agency tasked with selling the Angels’ patch. “But with only one deal out there, no one can say that market value has been set yet.”
Selling an MLB patch is Two Circles’ initial stake in the ground in the US as the agency seeks to burnish its reputation stateside under former Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment CCO Adam Davis, who signed on as managing director for North America in October. Davis engineered the 76ers’ Crypto.com jersey patch deal last year, so his local expertise helped, though Cuddeback noted the deal was not necessarily targeted for a local brand.
The amount of on-uniform ad inventory available across North American pro sports is unprecedented. Only the Padres have announced a patch deal (with Motorola) so far, but early on, the interest and asking prices for MLB ad patches has been buoyant — in most cases exceeding a team’s ballpark naming-rights deal.
Even so, “there’s so many choices, it’s important to have a real differentiator,” said Davis. “The NBA’s most successful [patch] programs have been where it’s a premium media market and the team has a real star. Bryce Harper is one of those and since so many fans are following players as much as teams, that’s meaningful for the younger demographic so many brands want.”
With travel rebounding from its pandemic malaise, Amtrak has revived its sports marketing efforts after a five-year hiatus with team sponsorships throughout the East, aimed at leisure travelers.
Included in the campaign, which is being driven by Hackensack, NJ-based sports marketing agency Source Communications, are team deals with the Mets, Nationals, Orioles, Phillies, Red Sox, Yankees, along with an MLB.com umbrella deal that put Amtrak digital ads on those teams’ online schedule pages. At venue, there’s a mixture of permanent, LED, and behind-home-plate signage, as well as digital ads on pitching mounds.
Experiential marketing and train wraps are being contemplated for next season,” said Source Communications President Larry Rothstein. “Everyday visibility is crucial for the Amtrak brand and baseball really delivers that,” he said.
- While MLB fans are back in the stands and 2022 appears like the first normal season by most business metrics since 2019, it is still a bit of an outlier as far as Jay Deutsch is concerned. “It certainly wasn’t a normal planning year for ’22,” the co-founder of Bensussen Deutsch & Associates told SBJ’s Erik Bacharach. “I still think the full comp for baseball for 2019, pre-COVID, will be ’23.”
- The Major League Soccer Players Association’s decision to reclaim all of its licensing rights has quickly paid off, as the labor union saw its assets more than double to over $19 million in its last fiscal year, notes my colleague Liz Mullen.