By Barry Janoff
April 4, 2016: The All-Star Game in San Diego is still months away, but MLB has brought star power to its 2016 marketing campaign, with such players as Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Felix Hernandez, Giancarlo Stanton, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Andrew McCutchen among those getting featuring roles.
Several new spots, which range from humorous to light-hearted, are part of a multi-level effort to usher in the new season, under the league's umbrella "This" marketing push.
The spots are breaking this week during Opening Day and Opening Night games across MLB media broadcast and cable media partners, as well as Internet, with social media support. They will enter into regular rotation as new spots appear throughout the season.
Among other campaigns to boost awareness for the new season include Skechers, with a Relaxed Fit spot starring Baseball Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith; "Caps On" from New Era; Topps with Buster Posey and PlayStation's MLB The Show 16.
Quicken Loans has unveiled the second year of its "Steal A Home" sweepstakes, in which people have the opportunity to win prizes including tickets, jerseys, MLB.TV subscriptions and the grand prize of a mortgage-free year and a trip for two to the 2016 World Series. (Details here.)
New partners such as Papa John's and Apple are expected to unveil campaigns as the season progresses.
"As we begin our 2016 regular season, millions of fans around the world can realistically hope that their team will be playing October baseball and contending for a World Championship," Rob Manfred, entering his second season as MLB commissioner, wrote in an open letter. "Our game is characterized by great competitive balance. The last five seasons have produced more playoff teams — 24 — than any such period in baseball history and we have now gone a record 15 straight years without a repeat World Series Champion.
"Fans can also be excited about the great group of young stars in our game today. These extraordinary young players also stand out as ambassadors for the sport," said Manfred."
MLB plans to set a new record in sponsorship spend, topping the league's all-time high of $778 million in sponsorship spending during the 2015 season. That was up more than $80 million from the previous record of $695 million in 2014, according to the MLB IEG Sponsorship Report from research, marketing and consulting firm IEG, Chicago.
MLB's marketing revenue has shown solid growth since 2011, with $663 million in 2013, $626 million in 2012 and $585 million in 2011.
Players get to show their acting, rather than baseball, skills in the MLB This campaign.
In "Souvenir Business," Chicago Cubs teammates Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are working a start-up called Bryzzo Souvenir Company, to help fans get the home run balls they deserve. "We put the ding in dinger" they offer as we see them speaking on the phone to perspective customers, interspersed with game action of the pair hitting home runs into the stands.
Last season, the two combined to get 57 home run souvenirs to fans (Bryant 26, Rizzo 31).
We see two sides of "King" Felix Hernandez in "Nice Guy." Off the mound, the pitcher for the Seattle Mariners is everybody's best friend, bringing coffee to clubhouse meetings, bussing tables, mingling with fans and helping teammates to fold their laundry. But on the mound, it's no more Mr. Nice Guy as we see scenes of him striking out batters and displaying a competitive attitude.
Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout's mom gets a starring role in his spot, "Memorabilia," in which we see that her home in Millville, NJ, is filled with such items as his 2014 Hank Aaron Award (top hitter in the American League), a neon sign that reads "Trout-Standing," his life-size Fathead poster, fan mail from around the world and a plethora of jerseys, which, says his mom, she plans to turn into a quilt.
In "Catch Anything," the skills of Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen are put to the test when we see him standing near the outfield wall with a guy dressed as Humpty Dumpty precariously perched on wall, about to have a great fall.
Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals shows his compassion — and haircutting techniques — in "Fresh Flow" when kids who play for the Little Nats Little League team seek ways to break a losing streak, Harper offers uplifting advice and free styles to match his own coiffure.
We see one way in which the defending World Series champion Kansas City Royals celebrated, by taking selfies and "Family Pictures," with the featured group here including Salvador Perez, Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer and Jarrod Dyson.
Other spots in the initial 2016 This campaign include:
• "Dangerous Desert Predator" Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
• "Tug Of War" with Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins displaying his strength by taking on a team of youngster.