Baseball Video Games Step Up

NEW YORK Some things never change in the baseball world. Pitchers and catchers report to spring training earlier than their teammates. The Yankees’ payroll, already astronomical, continues to rise. And there are advertising campaigns for the annual releases of baseball video games.
 
Both 2K Sports, a division of Take Two Interactive, and Sony Computer Entertainment America will begin airing TV ads for their games, MLB 2K8 and MLB 08 The Show, respectively, this Friday. These are the only two baseball games coming out this year that will be officially licensed by Major League Baseball.
 
For 2K, which over the weekend was the target of an unsolicited $2 billion takeover bid by rival game maker Electronic Arts, the stakes in the high-priced video game world are even bigger than usual.
 
Against that backdrop, 2K’s latest campaign, from independent Neiman Group, Harrisburg, Pa., looks to put the player into the game. The campaign, called
“I wanna,” with narration by comedian and actor Dennis Leary, mixes clips of live baseball play with video game footage.

“It’s all the things you want to do in baseball, such as hit for the cycle and be a five-tool player,” said Chris Snyder, director of 2K Sports, Novato, Calif. “Our previous campaigns were feature driven and about video game play footage. This one is about the love of the sport, the passion of baseball as well as great video game play.”

The campaign, which is still being finalized, will have roughly 26 commercials that will be a mixture of 60-, 30- and 15-second spots. While 11 will air on channels such as ESPN, G4 and Fox Sports, the rest will be shown online at a microsite that is under development.

Jose Reyes, shortstop of the New York Mets and master of the stolen base, is the cover athlete as well as the star of 11 ads, three of which will be in Spanish. This marks the first time that 2K will present baseball game spots in Spanish.
 
“Baseball is traditionally a little slower than hockey or basketball. The idea was to make it fun and energize it,” said Jeff Odiorne, ecd, Neiman Group, Harrisburg, Pa. Neiman won the account in a review with undisclosed participants at the end of December. The account had previously been with RDA, New York.

While 2K has Reyes, Sony has Ryan Howard, first baseman and slugger for the Philadelphia Phillies, as its cover athlete. Sony’s MLB 08 The Show campaign focuses on its “Road to The Show” mode, where a gamer takes a prospect from the minor leagues to the majors.
 
Two 30-second spots focus on Howard. “The theme of the spots is staying true to the game. Howard talks about being a kid and dreaming of being a Major League player while hitting rocks over the fence,” said Troy Mack, product manager, SCEA, San Diego.
 
As part of the campaign, which is from Deutsch/LA, Marina del Rey, Calif., two Cadillac Escalades are traveling around to spring break locations and spring training facilities in Florida and Arizona, distributing T-shirts and letting people play the game. Deutsch won the account in December, besting several contenders including incumbent TBWA\Chiat\Day, which retains the business in Europe.
 
For online, three different sets of banners show Howard, a baseball card creator that is part of the game and game play. There is also a promotion with New Era, a baseball hat manufacturer, in which if people send in a card from the PlayStation 3 version of the game, they will receive a free hat.
 
“We’re taking a very inside sports approach to the whole thing,” said Mack. It’s all stayed relatively true to the game as well as our athlete as far as talking about their past experiences in making it to the show,” he added.