World Baseball Issues Marketing Scorecard

NEW YORK Major League Baseball’s season has officially begun, but marketing results for the first World Baseball Classic tournament in which many of the league’s top players participated last month have just been tallied.

The event was a success that “exceeded all of our expectations,” according to MLB International vp of sponsorships and licensing Shawn Lawson-Cummings.

According to the New York-based client, the event sold about 740,000 tickets at seven venues over 18 days. The event posted higher ratings on ESPN than regular-season National Basketball Association games in the last year, and drew the third-best TV ratings for broadcast baseball in Japan. Its Web site,, had more than 1 billion hits from July 2005 through March 2006.

Ticket sales accounted for most of the nearly $15 million in profits for World Baseball Classic Inc., Lawson-Cummings said. Proceeds will be distributed among the national teams that participated, except the Cuban squad, which knew that before participating, she added.

Held from March 3 through March 20 in Tokyo, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Anaheim, Calif., San Diego, Scottsdale and Phoenix, Ariz., and Orlando, Fla., the series of games that pit teams from Japan, Mexico, Cuba and the U.S., among others, was a marketing vehicle to give the game more global appeal.

“We went into this from a perspective of wanting to develop the market internationally,” Lawson-Cummings said. “We wanted to use this tournament to showcase Major League Baseball, its players and international players to create a larger forum to highlight the sport.”

WPP Group’s Grey and its public relations arm, GCI, created the “Face the world” ad campaign that featured top players like Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz. The first TV spot ran during the Super Bowl and thereafter with national and local print and radio ads. The campaign also targeted Hispanic and Asian-American consumers in those media and with ticket giveaways.

The next World Baseball Classic is slated for 2009—a year in which there will be no Olympics or World Cup soccer matches—and then every four years thereafter.