With New Commissioners, MLB and the NBA Rethink Their Marketing

Baseball closes in on an agency as basketball takes in final pitches

Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association have something in common beyond new commissioners: Each is close to hiring an ad agency to lead its marketing efforts. 

MLB is further along than the NBA, which last week hosted final presentations from R/GA, Translation and the incumbent, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, according to sources. A selection is expected early next month.

New NBA chief marketing officer Pam El is leading that search, which Hasan + Co. in Raleigh, N.C., is managing. Account revenue is estimated at more than $5 million, and annual media spending is around $50 million.

MLB, meanwhile, is in advanced talks to hire Anomaly to handle its creative account, with annual media spending of nearly $30 million, according to Kantar Media. The New York shop emerged after a pitch that included a handful of shops, including SS+K, sources said.

An MLB representative acknowledged the agency search, noting that the league was "exploring possibilities for the 2015 season" but declined to discuss Anomaly.

In the past, MLB has employed multiple agencies, including BBDO for corporate image work and Hill Holliday for marketing around the league's Fan Cave hub in New York. Neither shop participated in the pitch, according to sources.

Unlike with the NBA, MLB has a longstanding CMO; Jacqueline Parkes has been in the role since 2008. But, of course, like El, Parkes has a new boss: Rob Manfred, who in January will succeed Bud Selig as commissioner. Selig had been in charge since 1992.

The NBA's new commissioner, Adam Silver, succeeded David Stern in February. Stern's tenure was even longer than Selig's: 30 years. And with the new year, each league's agency player will be in place. As for the new ads, well, wait 'til next year, as Mets and Knicks fans say.