Baseball Sales Brisk

Mar 1, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Two historic playoff series and a preseason that has filled the sports pages with the trades of big-name players are translating into quicker ad sales for baseball, according to ESPN.
Ed Erhardt, president of customer marketing and sales, ESPN/ABC Sports, said ad sales for regular-season games are pacing about 15 percent ahead of last year.
“I think in general baseball has a good buzz in the marketplace. There’s been a lot of big, big news about baseball, and I think that’s kept that in the minds of the marketplace,” Mr. Erhardt said.
ESPN has sold three major packages to presenting sponsors. Miller High Life will sponsor spring training; Home Depot will sponsor opening day; and Bank One will be the presenting sponsor of ESPN’s Wednesday night baseball franchise. Mr. Erhardt would not disclose the prices of the packages, which include on-line, off-air and on-site marketing.
“I think what ESPN says is true; it’s a good time to buy baseball,” said Mike Law, supervisor of national broadcast at Carat. Sam Sussman, VP, media director, at Starcom Worldwide, added that there has been a lot of talk about trades and free agents as well as about Pete Rose and steroids. “A lot of people have spent a lot of time on the airwaves talking about baseball,” Mr. Sussman said. “We expect baseball to kick off with some decent numbers.”
ESPN has gotten a jump on Fox, which also broadcasts baseball nationally. While ESPN begins its season March 30, Fox, which has the bulk of the playoffs and the World Series, does not begin its regular-season “Game of the Week” series until late May.
“Because advertisers buy ESPN on an upfront basis and across multiple sports, they are certainly more well sold in baseball second and probably third quarter than is Fox, which has just finished its NASCAR negotiations,” said Ray Dundas, senior VP, group director, national broadcast at Initiative Media.
Mr. Dundas said that ESPN was getting only “marginal” increases for spots on baseball. Baseball doesn’t “have the cachet in regular season.” While baseball’s regular-season ratings have been steady, even on ESPN, the game has an older profile than other sports, limiting its appeal to marketers looking to reach those elusive young male viewers.
“I would think Fox will try to get what it can from the marketplace, but baseball being what it is, particularly in the second quarter, when you have the NBA going into playoffs, they really have to make it an efficiency buy,” Mr. Dundas said.
Baseball helps itself by being friendly to integrated marketing packages. “The sport does allow for a lot of added value,” he said. “That is attractive to advertisers in terms of trying to dominate the game with as many commercial impressions as possible. “
Fox would love a repeat of last year’s playoffs, Mr. Dundas added. “That being said, they were so atypical … they really can’t sell off of those ratings this year because they could be overextending themselves.” He expects Fox to sell on the basis of a three-year average of post-season ratings.