By Barry Janoff
January 9, 2013: Major League Baseball will break with a long-standing tradition — managers picking up a phone to call the bullpen for relief — via a new deal that makes T-Mobile USA the official wireless sponsor of MLB.
The three-year alliance was called a "multimillion-dollar partnership" that would also see T-Mobile invest "in a comprehensive, multifaceted marketing approach to include partnerships with MLB media partners Fox, Turner, MLB Network and ESPN.
T-Mobile and MLB said they would develop "marquee media opportunities and marketing extensions" at events throughout the year, as well as local sponsorships with select MLB clubs. T-Mobile is currently has marketing deals with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Seattle Mariners.
The first impact of the deal will be a "wireless voice system connecting managers "in select Major League dugouts" to coaches in bullpens. MLB said the new On-Field Communication System dugout-to-bullpen system would start to roll out in 2013. Teams will be given the options of using a system with T-Mobile branding, an MLB-branded system or not to participate.
In addition, in collaboration with MLB Advanced Media, T-Mobile said it would use its nationwide 4G network, which it said is currently available in 229 metro areas and reaches more than 220 million people, "to further enhance and broaden network coverage and connectivity for fans in MLB ballparks."
“T-Mobile has made a significant commitment to Major League Baseball across our game and business, and its innovative drive and expertise in wireless technology will be an outstanding addition to the baseball industry,” Tim Brosnan, MLB evp-business, said in a statement. “T-Mobile has been an impact player in the wireless industry, and we look forward to its innovative spirit positively influencing the game and the way fans enjoy it.”
T-Mobile had been the official wireless partner of the NBA from 2005-2011, a category that was filled by Sprint for the 2012-13 season. T-Mobile said the company "determined not to renew its partnership with the NBA due to a shift in business strategy and priorities."
As part of its new baseball alliance, T-Mobile will be the presenting sponsor of ESPN’s Wednesday Night Baseball, including on-air, digital and mobile sponsorship initiatives, in addition to features on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight.
MLBAM, which develops and distributes the MLB.com At Bat mobile app, said it would work with T-Mobile "to enrich the digital experience on T-Mobile’s smartphones and tablets; create custom, compelling content exclusively for its customers; and develop promotional opportunities and unique offers for MLB.com content."
Bellevue, Wash.-based T-Mobile USA, Inc. is the U.S. wireless division of Deutsche Telekom AG.
“We look forward to working with Major League Baseball and are excited they have chosen T-Mobile’s technology to power a new, in-game communication system at ballparks across the country,” Mike Sievert, CMO for T-Mobile USA, said in a statement. “Unlike a typical sponsorship, we’re approaching this partnership as a collaboration in which T-Mobile, MLB and MLBAM will work together to evolve the game with exciting new technology innovation, enhancing the experience for customers and fans.”
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