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The New Mandatory: Integrating Sponsors Into the Game PDF Print E-mail
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Articles & Opinion
Written by Kurt Hunzeker   
Monday, 28 April 2008 23:00
A Biz of Baseball ExclusiveOh thank heaven for 7-Eleven!

In October 2006, when the c-store retailer announced a new, 3-year sponsorship with the Chicago White Sox, sports sponsors began singing 7-Eleven’s familiar slogan…and for good reason.  

By integrating its name into the very fabric of the game of baseball (by changing the White Sox’s night game start times to 7:11pm), 7-Eleven changed the equation on how sponsors can activate their sports marketing efforts.


Pretty bold statement, you say?  Consider what happened just last night….

ESPN SportsCenter, the necessary nighttime ritual of millions of sports fans everywhere, created a brand new advertising platform to help Anheuser-Busch’s launch of Bud Light Lime: the entire show. 

While an exclusive show-length sponsorship is nothing new on broadcast or cable television, it is for SportsCenter; a program known for sponsor-tagging just about every segment during each telecast (Budweiser Hot Seat, anyone?).

So when the 11pm EDT SportsCenter started last night and the voice-over announcer trumpeted that episode’s Bud Light Lime exclusivity, it made you look.  And when you looked, you saw the studio’s lights shine green…and SportsCenter potentially opened up the Pandora’s Box of on-air advertiser integration. 

From Allstate’s branding on collegiate field goal nets to Aflac’s quacky trivia questions seemingly in every sports telecast, sponsors are either A) devising more strategic ways to cut through the advertising and sponsorship clutter, or B) demanding their property partners cut them on the action…literally.

In 2004, Columbia Pictures tried to integrate “Spider-Man 2” into Major League Baseball games by branding the bases with the movie’s logo.  Ironically, 79.4 percent of ESPN’s SportsNation poll respondents at that time said that MLB was “selling out” with this sponsorship stunt. 

Tradition was cited as the reason why MLB backtracked on this multi-faceted sponsorship package, with the base-branding taking center stage.  Two years later, 7-Eleven changes the “traditional” nighttime game starts of 7:05pm and 7:35pm…and just about everyone lauded the deal.

The obvious needs to be asked: what’s next? 

I would love to see the return of the baseball bullpen cart…with the oversized cap affixed to the top.  Doesn’t this just scream like a perfect vehicle for NAPA Auto Parts?

If I am the NBA, why Procter & Gamble’s Swiffer brand (the would-be Zamboni of the NBA) is not an official partner is beyond me. 

Speaking of basketball…the glass backboard is one of the few places left relatively untouched.  I would immediately change that with one call to S. C. Johnson & Son’s Windex brand.

I would like to be looking forward to the Nintendo Wii Olympics this summer, coming to a health club near you. 

Just as long as a half lime-half human breakdancing is not one of the events….


    Kurt Hunzeker is a staff member of the Business of Sports Network. He is the former editor of the Team Marketing Report, and the founder Sparts Marketing (, a sports-centric design and consulting firm where sports, art and marketing fuse together to create award-winning campaigns, unique brand identities and innovative sponsorship platforms.

    He, as well as all other authors on The Biz of Baseball can be contacted through the Author Profiles page.



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