Opening Day for MLB.com’s 2008 Ad Season

As baseball season gets underway today, MLB Advanced Media has its roster of sponsors set. Bank of America, State Farm Insurance and Revlon’s Mitchum are in the lineup. Monster also will return as an advertiser, attaching its brand to Major League Baseball’s online All-Star Game ballot.

The Opening Day sponsorship gives Bank of America prominent presence at the top of all MLB.com pages today. Clicking on the firm’s logo drives visitors to a baseball trivia quiz, team credit card offers and registration for a chance to win tickets to this year’s All-Star Game at the fabled Yankees Stadium in The Bronx.

Another lead generation oriented sponsorship will come in mid-April from Monster, which is advertising on MLB.com for the fourth season. The job recruitment site will brand the All-Star Game’s online ballot for the third consecutive year, allowing fans to vote for their favorite players in the hope they’ll be chosen to appear in the beloved mid-season battle of the leagues. As in previous years, a promotion offering the chance to attend All-Star Game festivities such as The Home Run Derby is intended to generate new accounts and resumes for Monster.

“In addition to just the brand exposure, we’re trying to engage users that may not be actively pursuing new job opportunities,” explained John Federico, Monster’s VP Global Online Media.

The ongoing partnership began with Monster sponsoring listings of available MLB jobs such as statistician and sports writer, and has expanded over the years. The recruitment site also sponsors content featuring free agent and Hot Stove reports, the pre-season news items about player trades and moves. “It’s a perfect fit with careers,” said Federico.

However, the All-Star Ballot sponsorship is the key to Monster’s game, not only because it takes place during the regular season, but because the ballot is a big draw to the site. Last year, the advertiser collected “several million” opt-ins through the sponsorship, according to Federico. The ballot and sweepstakes will be promoted across all 30 team sites.

Perhaps the biggest All-Star attraction besides the game itself is The Home Run Derby, a contest in which sluggers compete to see who can slam the most balls out of the park. State Farm, a regular MLB.com advertiser, will be sponsoring a live stream of the event later this year.

Deodorant brand Mitchum recently began sponsoring a new site feature called “Beat the Streak,” a game measuring the number of consecutive days players chosen by contestants get hits. Meanwhile, Nestle’s Baby Ruth is sponsoring a contest in which crooners compete to sing the 7th inning stretch classic “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during this year’s All-Star Game. That promotion is part of a larger Web campaign connecting the candy bar to the American pastime.

Monster has considered advertising alongside MLB.com’s newest site feature, video alerts in Gameday, an application that provides play-by-play coverage of all regular and post-season games, noting things like pitch speed and who grounded into a double play. The new subscription video service lets users view clips of game-changing plays within minutes of their occurrence. Advertisers can brand the media player, as well as run banners and pre-roll video spots.

“We’re looking for sponsors for that now,” said MLB.com VP, Sponsorships Scott Norwood.

Pre-roll video ads are especially popular with advertisers, he continued. “It has become one of our more popular forms of media second only to the sweepstakes,” said Norwood. The site runs spots from television advertiser partners, or can create them for advertisers using MLB-licensed content. “I can offer a license to the use of the 30 team marks, and use of the player images to create a promotion that lives online,” he said.

Mobile media, appreciated by sports aficionados hungry for real-time game updates, also has become a focus for MLB.com, which offers WAP sites associated with all 30 teams. “Sometime this year we’ll be offering mobile video alerts,” said Norwood, adding that those, too, will involve sponsorship opportunities.

Individual teams also offer online and mobile ads, though they’ve only recently begun selling online packages, according to Norwood. “More and more,” he said, “the teams are getting requests to include team.com advertising as well as mobile advertising.”

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