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MLB Signs New Ad Agency Amidst High Revenue, Sag In Attendance

October 14, 2010: Major League Baseball has a new lead advertising agency, but has not moved from the parent company that oversees the new and former firms. Accord to MLB, "After a lengthy review process of agencies" nationwide, Hill Holliday has been named as its agency of record.

The Boston-based agency replaces McCann Erickson, New York, which handled the MLB account for almost eight years but declined to compete for the position. Both agencies are part of the Interpublic Group of Companies. At its home page, the agency procalims, "Now batting for Major League Baseball: Hill Holliday."

The league said in a statement that with the appointment of Hill Holliday, "MLB will look to creatively market the game in dynamic and progressive ways leveraging their portfolio of media assets." The alliance will begin in conjunction with the 2011 season, "with many exciting initiatives and campaigns to follow," according to MLB. "The agency won the account, in large part, by demonstrating how a fully integrated, non-traditional campaign could engage fans and viewers across multiple platforms."

Some of Hill Holliday's other clients are companies that already have strong MLB ties, including Bank of America (which is the official bank of MLB), Dunkin’ Donuts and John Hancock.

The change in agencies comes following a regular season in which MLB attendance at its 30 stadiums topped 73 million for the seventh consecutive year, but dropped for the third straight season. Gross revenue is expected to be almost $7 billion for the first time, according to an earlier statement from Commissioner Bud Selig.

MLB set an attendance record in 2007 with a total of 79,503,175 and an average of 32,785.The official figure released by MLB for the 2010 regular season was 73,061,781, an average of 30,141,  0.4% lower than 2009.

In 2009, MLB the teams drew 73.4 million, an average of 30,350. That was a 6.7% drop from 2008's total of 78.6 million and average of 32,528, both down from 2007.

According to Tim Brosnan, vp-business for MLB, “Hill Holliday’s vision for our brand and game was modern, innovative and inspiring. The agency’s creative approach for reaching fans in the complex and fragmented media environment is unique and extraordinarily promising.”

The statement almost mirrors Brosnan's comments in January 2002 when McCann Erickson was named MLB's lead agency. "McCann will act as a strategic partner to us in research management, developing a brand position and establishing a clarity of voice across communications platforms, to ensure that our brand message resonates with the sports and business communities,'' Brosnan said at the time.

“Baseball is fundamentally a social idea,” Karen Kaplan, Hill Holliday’s president, said in a statement. “It crosses generations, brings family and friends together, and is deeply engrained in our culture. With a fresh approach to content and marketing, we think baseball fits beautifully into the modern entertainment landscape. We agree with our new clients that the golden age of baseball is right now. It’s an honor to work on this great game.”

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