By Barry Janoff
February 26, 2017: When the 2017 World Baseball Classic begins on March 6, it will include 16 teams, more than 400 players, six cities, a half-dozen stadiums and some 60 (and counting) marketing partners supporting global, regional and/or local activations.
The marketing drive is led by four World Baseball Classic global partners: GungHo Online Entertainment, Hublot, Nippon Express and Nomura Securities.
The international partner list also includes Delta Air Lines, which said it has deals with nearly half of MLB's 30 teams, and will "support the unique travel demands of the tournament as the preferred carrier of the World Baseball Classic.
In addition, WBC partners include Gatorade, Kia, LG, AT&T, Brooks Brothers, Rawlings (the official baseball), New Era (caps) and Majestic (jerseys and T-shirts).
"The World Baseball Classic is a one-of-a kind tournament and the diversity of marketing partners associated with the 2017 edition is a testament to its unique nature and reach," Dominick Balsamo, vp-international media sales & marketing partnerships for MLB, said in a statement.
"This event is special in that it extends the opportunity for activation inside six international venues, integrated branding on in-game national team uniforms, and exposure across media platforms worldwide."
The World Baseball Classic, designed to resemble the FIFA World Cup, was first held in 2006 (won by Japan), then in 2009 (Japan) and again in 2013 (Dominican Republic). As promoted in a TV spot for the 2017 World Baseball Classic, "Every four years the best baseball players in the world compete for country, pride and glory."
It was launched by the International Baseball Federation — and is now under the auspices of the World Baseball Softball Confederation — in response to the removal of baseball and softball from the Olympics by the International Olympic Committee. That decision was made in 2005 and took effect at the 2012 Summer Games in London. There also was no baseball or softball at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.
However, the IOC voted last year to reinstate baseball and softball beginning with the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, so the future status of the WBC, which would next be scheduled for 2021, remains uncertain.
U.S. cities hosting games are Miami (Marlins Park), San Diego (Petco Park) and Los Angeles, with Dodger Stadium the site for the championship round, March 20-22, featuring the final four teams.
All games will be shown in the U.S. on MLB Network and ESPN Deportes. (Full MLB Network TV schedule is here.)
The 2013 tournament drew a total attendance of 885,212, which surpassed the 2009 World Baseball Classic total of 801,410.
Among the global activation plans, Swiss luxury watchmaker Hublot will unveil a multi-media campaign, "Hublot Loves Baseball," utilizing the four colors of the World Baseball Classic logo and featuring players from six national teams.
Nippon Express has created a global TV campaign that envisions its employees as "'Ninja Baseballers' — demonstrating that their baseball fandom is always top of mind, even when working hard to be the 'most valuable logistics player,'" which is Nippon Express’ official WBC status.
"The video uses elaborate depictions of the ninja to showcase the high level of skill and expertise possessed by Nippon Express throughout the world," the company said in a statement. "When the ninja releases his inner soul, he becomes a baseball player who deftly throws, hits and fields. The ball then expands to Nippon Express staff around the world who possess these skills."
Financial services firm Nomura Securities will use its effort to explain that it has partnered with the World Baseball Classic "because, like the national teams striving to reach new heights in global competition, Nomura also challenges itself in the world of global finance."
Nomura said they would unveil campaigns closer to the games themselves, to be integrated in all venues and broadcasts worldwide.
GungHo, the online video game company that developed Puzzles & Dragons, will incorporate WBC logos and Team Japan players and uniforms into their mobile Puzzles & Dragons game.
GungHo will also have a WBC-branded scoreboard race throughout the tournament, with appearances by Puzzles & Dragons characters throughout the game.
Among the regional activation plans, T-Mobile, a three-time sponsor of Team Puerto Rico, will have a patch on the team’s jersey; plus a spot featuring Yadier Molina, Enrique Hernandez and Carlos Delgado touting the company’s "no fees, no surprises" phone plans.
Asahi Beer, a supporter of the World Baseball Classic since its inception in 2006, will serve as a presenting sponsor for both rounds in Tokyo. In connection with Team Tokyo, the brand will conduct "buy and win" promos for such prizes as tickets to WBC games.
In addition, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Asahi Super Dry, the company said it would incorporate elements of a new multi-platform effort using the slogan, "Cheers! Asahi Super Dry pleasantly touches the mind and connects to the heart” as it seeks to "create new drinking opportunities."
Korea-based automaker Kia will launch a fleet of tournament-branded vehicles transporting national teams and fans to first-round games in Seoul.
Investment firm Value is the presenting sponsor of the round in Jalisco, Mexico as a first-time World Baseball Classic sponsor.
Banco BHD Leon, a WBC partner for the third time, will have patches on the jerseys of defending champion Team Dominican Republic.
Among the other jersey and/or helmet patch deals (as of Feb. 26):
Team Australia will have a Lendlease patch on its jerseys.
Team Canada will have a Canadian Tire patch on its helmets, Sun Life Financial on its jerseys.
Team Chinese Taipei will have a Cathay Bank patch on its helmets, HTC on its jerseys.
Team Dominican Republic will show a Claro patch on its helmets, Banco BHD Leon on its jerseys.
Sodastream carbonated beverages, headquartered in Israel, will have patches on the jerseys and helmets for Team Israel.
The team from Japan will wear helmets with a Nippon Express patch and jerseys with GungHo.
LG consumer electronics bought rights to the jersey and helmet positions for Team Korea and will support the new LG G6 smartphone.
Team Mexico will have Comex patches on their helmets, AT&T on their jerseys.
The Netherlands will have Wellink patches on their helmets, Curaçao Tourism on their jerseys.
Team Puerto Rico will wear helmets with a Universal patch and jerseys with a T-Mobile patch.
Team Venezuela will have Gobierno Bolivariano de Venezuela patches on their helmets and PDVSA patches on their jerseys.
The U.S. team has to date not sold the real estate for their helmets or jerseys.
According to Timothy Slavin, chief of business affairs for the Major League Baseball Players Assn., "The international growth and popularity of baseball is a testament to the success of the World Baseball Classic.
"That success isn’t realized without the support the Classic continues to receive from some of the world’s most recognizable brands as they seek to engage with our ever-expanding global fan base."
WBC Marketing Partners (as of Feb. 26)
• Aeon Card (credit card)
• Aga (beverages)
• Asahi Breweries (beer)
• AT&T (Mexico/telecommunications)
• Autobuses Pacifico (transportation)
• Banco BHD Leon (Dominican Republic/retail banking)
• Brooks Brothers Japan (suits)
• Bumin Hospital
• Canadian Tire (Canada)
• Cathay Bank (Chinese Taipei)
• Cerveceria Presidente (beer)
• City of Rotterdam (tourism)
• Claro (Dominican Republic/telecommunications)
• Comex (Mexico/construction)
• Curaçao Tourism (Netherlands)
• Dominican Republic Tourism Company
• Delta Airline
• Efecty (Colombia/money transfer)
• Eneos (energy)
• Flex Power (sports cream)
• Gobierno Bolivariano de Venezuela
• GungHo Online Entertainment
• Hospital San Javier
• HTC (Chinese Taipei/consumer electronics)
• JTB (travel)
• Lawson HMV (entertainment)
• LendLease (Australia/project management/construction)
• LG Consumer Electronics
• Mizuno (sportswear)
• Monte (candy)
• Nippon Express
• Nomura Securities
• OFVC (tourism)
• PDVSA (Venezuela/energy)
• Potosinos (trucking)
• Savas (soft drink)
• Seoul City
• Shinhyub (credit union)
• Sodastream (Israel/carbonated beverages)
• StrikeZon (baseball)
• Sun Life Financial
• Universal (Puerto Rico/insurance)
• Wellink (Netherlands/pork distributor)
• Wingo (Colombia/airline)
• Zapopan (tourism)
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