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Cartoon Network, Minor League Baseball Partner to Bring Cartoons to the Ballpark

As the summer heats up, Cartoon Network is bringing its shows to the ballpark through its new partnership with Minor League Baseball.

John Collins

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Peanuts, Cracker Jack, and … cartoons? 

That’s right, there’s an eye-catching new partnership that has us longing for our youth and wishing summers were forever. Several weeks ago, Minor League Baseball announced a unique collaboration with Cartoon Network on its “Best Summer Ever” initiative, which seamlessly combines baseball games and Cartoon Network original series, delighting both kids and adults alike.

Minor League Baseball’s VP of Business and Development Gerald Jones explained how this partnership came about, saying that “Cartoon Network was looking to expand its ‘Best Summer Ever’ marketing initiative, and wanted to reach communities that overlap with — perfectly, actually — the Minor League Baseball footprint.” 

Cartoon Network is aspiring to reach a national, diverse fan base looking for safe, family fun and entertainment at a value. Coincidentally, that’s precisely the audience that Minor League Baseball caters to and specializes in. 

As Jones pointed out, “we offer a family-fun atmosphere on a night-in and night-out basis at 159 ballparks nationwide, giving CN the opportunity to display content on video boards to crowds eager for precisely what their network is providing.” 

Cartoon Network series featured throughout the promotion include “The Amazing World of Gumball,” “Craig of the Creek,” “Teen Titans Go!” and “We Bare Bears.” The partnership encompasses a total of 50 games at 15 different minor league ballparks, with multiple “Best Summer Ever” promos scheduled at each venue. 

The promos themselves entail a pre-game activation built around two 11-minute intervals of Cartoon Network original programming that air on the stadium video board. During the game itself, the partnership continues with CN previews and teasers interspersed throughout the game, and after the final inning, the participating stadiums air another 11-minute interval of network programming. 

MiLB and Cartoon Network have been happy with the results of the collaboration thus far. Jones described the “Best Summer Ever” program as a resounding success for all involved, noting that “as with any partnership it fits a variety of parameters important to both sides.” 

“This campaign lines up perfectly with Minor League Baseball’s vision,” he said. “The league aims to create industry-leading value for fans, member clubs, local communities, and partners. When you roll that into this partnership, and what Cartoon Network is about, it ‘checks all the boxes,’ if you will.” 

For the network, it gets access to a broad platform with minor league ball clubs known for their penchant in designing creative, engaging, innovative promotional campaigns that attract families and crowds of all types. 

“That’s what our entire league is built on and about,” Jones stated. “Here, you see it all — Family Night, Dollar Dog Night, Student Night, Super Hero Day, etc. For teams in the minor leagues, it’s all about keeping fans interested and engaged. The entire emphasis is really on the experience and the atmosphere.” 

It’s precisely that audience Cartoon Network’s marketing team is striving to reach. In turn, the network has a ready-made audience looking for exactly the kind of content Cartoon Network programming provides. 

Having cartoons and being associated with fun characters kids are familiar with keeps the much younger fan base interested and engaged. What youngster wouldn’t enjoy watching baseball with his or her favorite cartoon character involved or in attendance, and getting to see the shows they watch outdoors on an enormous screen?

That connection and association creates yet another draw to the MiLB games for parents hoping to entertain their kids and keep them happy. It may even make it easier for some baseball fans, helping them bring their otherwise reluctant children out to more games just to see the cartoons and festivities. Collaborating with Cartoon Network also provides a reservoir for content creation and novelty that the league can use for future marketing designed to grow the game. 

The win-win relationship Jones mentioned has been proven, as teams involved in the “Best Summer Ever” partnership have seen an uptick in enthusiasm and the always-important ticket sales. 

“It’s definitely been successful for us,” Jones stated, “because we have clubs not part of the initial rollout asking how they can get involved with the Cartoon Network partnership going forward.” 

It’s common practice for different teams to take note of what works around the league and do what they can to emulate the promotions and marketing strategies that are most effective. 

Jones and MiLB are hoping to expand the partnership in the future, involving more clubs around the league on a more robust, comprehensive basis. Jones said that some teams already do things similar to this campaign, but all of that is conducted on an individual, team-by-team basis. Bringing it all under one umbrella in the same Cartoon Network collaboration would create a single, unified, cohesive campaign that the league can better work into their overall marketing strategy. 

Here’s hoping that Minor League Baseball and Cartoon Network’s “Best Summer Ever” gets even better next year. 

A Communication major from the University of Southern California, with eclectic experience in the sports, business, and the entertainment industry, John Collins is the baseball writer at Front Office Sports. An avid sports fan and highly opinionated writer, John is of the firm belief that Bull Durham is far superior to Field of Dreams and looks forward to you telling him otherwise. Reach out: John@frntofficesport.com any time!

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How Wayne Rooney Added Millions of Additional Brand Value for D.C. United and MLS

Since Wayne Rooney joined D.C. United during the MLS season, the team garnered millions in new brand value, setting the team up well for the future.

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Major League Soccer’s D.C. United brought in a gold mine when the team signed English soccer legend Wayne Rooney.

According to the company GumGum Sports, the first four months of Rooney in the team’s uniform generated $4.5 million in social media value for jersey sponsor Leidos. That sum was a massive increase over the $130,000 value from the time prior to his signing.

D.C. United is one of GumGum’s clients. GumGum Sports uses computer vision to help rights holders, sponsors, and agencies measure the media value of their sponsorships across TV, streaming and social media. The company is also helping transform an industry previously relying on text and traditional broadcasts to value sponsorship, said Jeff Katz, VP of strategy and strategic partnerships at GumGum.

“They were missing social media, an emerging channel in how sports — even highlights — are shared across thousands of accounts,” Katz said. “There’s massive amounts of value coming in not just from accounts owned by teams or leagues, but out in the wild of social media.”

Rooney was a vital component in D.C. United’s season on the field. In the 14 games prior to his arrival, the team won two games and amassed 11 points. In the 17 games following his stateside arrival, D.C. United won 10 games and garnered 33 points with a +13 goal differential.

READ MORE: NLL Points to MLS as Benchmark for What League Could Become

Those games had some major moments for Rooney, generating much of the added value for the organization.

“Wayne Rooney’s not just a name. His play was huge,” Katz said. “The fact that he performed so well is a big deal as well, from a media value perspective. Because of his fame and social media presence, when he does something exciting, it raises D.C. United’s profile, influence and benefit.”

The June 28 signing announcement generated 3.7 million social engagements, driving a $1.7 million media value for D.C. United partners.

In August, the viral moment of Rooney making a game-saving tackle and then taking the ball the length of the field to score the 96th-minute game-winner resulted in $1.6 million in media value and 11.4 million engagements.

In a September game against Atlanta United, Rooney tied up the game on a penalty kick and then assisted on Luciano Acosta’s two goals later in the 3-1 win. The game drove $1.3 million in media value and 2.4 million engagements.

Increasingly, athletes providing major success on the field are also contributing mightily to the organization’s value. The increase in the brand’s brand value could certainly come in handy when it’s time to sign new deals, like its jersey deal.

Leidos signed the current three-year deal in 2016. With this new information, Katz said D.C. United is well positioned to demonstrate the increased value of its kit sponsorship moving forward. The Athletic reported in October the team was negotiating with Amazon, Qatar Airways, United Airlines and others for the deal in what could be one of the league’s most lucrative. The story reported the current deal is in the realm of $3 million. The next could be worth north of $5 million.

“These valuations help reframe how they see their assets,” he said. “With all the earned media value, the asset is even more so tremendously valuable.”

One worry of having a team relying so heavily on one player for driving media value is the drastic drop if they leave. Katz said the hope, at least for D.C. United, would be Rooney staying long enough to raise the league, team and teammate values enough to insulate it from Rooney’s eventual departure.

“There are a lot of things they can do now to leverage this increased exposure, and continue to drive value,” Katz said. “D.C. United highlight clips getting shared across social media helps the entire organization attract all sorts of attention. By the time in the long distant future when he leaves, they’ve already diversified where the value comes from.”

READ MORE: Superstars Help Showcase Importance of Social Media Value for Teams

It isn’t just D.C. United gaining value from Rooney’s presence, Katz said. The entire Major League Soccer brand does as well, as Rooney’s play makes its viral way across the internet. He also believes the league has received similar brand-value boosts when other international stars arrived — like David Beckham.

“MLS has a real opportunity to capitalize on acquisitions of top talent, drawing more attention and increasing their ability to generate and foster talent internally,” he said. “It’s more attention to build and develop their own stars’ social footprints and value.”

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Texas Legends Personal Approach to Partnerships Paying Off

The Legends have found that simple things like networking events are an easy way to add value to its partners and keep them retained.

Adam White

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Photo via @TexasLegends

The name of the team may not jump off the page, but the Texas Legends’ partnership strategy sure will catch your attention.

The team, based in Frisco, is the G League affiliate of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks. Playing in one of the most crowded metropolitan sports markets in the country, the Legends know that while their broad reach might not be as large as the Cowboys and the Mavericks or the Stars and Rangers, their local reach is exceedingly impactful.

And for the last few years, they have been leaning into that.

Britney Wynn, VP of media relations for the team, credits the G League and the flexibility provided to its member teams.

“The biggest difference on the partnership side between the NBA and the G League is the flexibility we have when it comes to being more creative. We don’t really have set partnerships or levels because everything we do is as custom as possible for the partner we are working with.”

This type of flexibility has led to the team having a different jersey for every home game and even one of their partners building a practice court for them.

“I can honestly tell you that this works better than anything else we do. These networking events get you clients. If you to host a networking event, they will come.” – Britney Wynn on what she tells other G League teams when it comes to successful partner strategies.

One of her favorite activations this year is the evolution of the team’s partnership with Legacy Plumbing. The local Frisco plumbing company was looking to change it up after four years of running a similar promotion. With the goal of the new activation having more of an impact on the community, Wynn and Legacy came up with what they called the “Mission of the Month.”

READ MORE: Why Delta Private Jets Signed With MSG as a Suites Partner

“Mission of the Month” is an extension of Legacy’s own internal program, except in this situation, the Legends have used their platform to expand the collection of items that will go to different charities to the three networking events they have every month for their premium clients.

Not only have the aforementioned networking events become an opportunity for partners like Legacy to activate, but they have also become a fundamental part of what the Legends can offer that is different from other teams in the area and an example of the culture that owner Donnie Nelson has built around the team.

“Donnie brought the team to Frisco to honor the true legends in the community (hence the name). Whether it was on the philanthropic side or on the business development side, he wanted to use the team solely for giving back purposes.”

Instead of just being a place where partners can activate, Wynn and the team at the Legends have turned the team into a conduit not only for positive social change, but positive business change — all at a price that is the most reasonable in the area and in an experience that is family friendly.

“The whole mindset behind the game is to make it somewhere where people can come and do business in a way you can’t find anywhere else. A lot of our smaller partnerships come in because we’re affordable and we’re family friendly. They will bring their kids and their clients will bring their kids; because of the kid zones on either end of the court, they will be able to talk business while the kids are playing.”

This mindset has spilled over to the networking events, such as a three-times-a-month program the Legends have set up for premium clients that will see them host a breakfast and a lunch at the arena and a happy hour at a partner’s restaurant or location.

They have even built out an executive event series that brings together high ranking executives from their partners in unique ways once a quarter. Their last event was held at a partner’s Mercedes-Benz dealership and was aptly called “Cigars and Cars.”

As for retention rate because of the approach, Wynn said: “I don’t know the exact percentage, but it is pretty high.”

While these initiatives may be hard work for the Legends staff, the events are cost-effective additions to packages that end up being a win-win for everyone involved.

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PlayStation Renewal Brings Stability to Fiesta Bowl

After a stretch in which the Fiesta Bowl saw four different title sponsors in four games, PlayStation’s multi-year commitment brings stability to one of the premier bowl games of the season.

Adam White

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First, it was Tostitos, then it was Vizio, then it was Battlefrog, and then it was PlayStation.

From 2014 to 2016, the Fiesta Bowl had four different title sponsors for four different games after having Tostitos as the title sponsor of the game from 1996-2014.

During that same time period, the only other New Year’s Six bowls to have their title sponsors changed were the Rose Bowl and the Cotton Bowl, with neither of them seeing the introduction of more than one new presenting partner.

Now, thanks to a new multi-year deal between ESPN and PlayStation, the brand will return after being the title sponsor for both the 2016 and 2017 editions of the game.

Although the Fiesta Bowl — the organization that puts on the game — isn’t the one negotiating the deal, having a partner like PlayStation back for at least the next few years is crucial according to Mike Nealy, the executive director of the Fiesta Bowl.

“We used to have a long-term relationship with a good brand and we were thrilled to have PlayStation. I think there was a sample time there for a couple of years, but the renewal signals that PlayStation is happy and we are happy. What they like to do as far as our local activation and being involved with the community makes this a big win for us and a big win for the community.”

READ MORE: Traditional Professional Athletes Could Soon See More Opportunities With Gaming Companies

No stranger to video games and esports, the Fiesta Bowl hosted the Overwatch Collegiate National Championship at the beginning of this year. While there might not be an esports component as part of the partnership this year, Nealy wasn’t one to shy away about the future prospects of some sort of tie-in there.

“We aren’t going to do it this year, but it is definitely in the thought process going forward.”

Although there might not be a formalized esports program, PlayStation will be active when it comes to activations, especially around ones that focus on community outreach.

“Throughout the week, they will be in lockstep with us when it comes to activations in the community. The charitable side of our organization is very important to us, so to have a partner that values that is what makes this partnership fit even more.”

Like other bowl games, since the introduction of the College Football Playoff, the dynamic around New Year’s Six games have changed.

Because of that, Nealy points to an emphasis on getting smarter at what the Fiesta Bowl is doing when it comes to marketing and selling tickets for the game because the game “no longer sells itself.”

Impacted by other macro conditions as well, getting smarter for the Bowl revolves around leveraging more data and insights to make sure that they are able to connect to the consumer base in a way that is relevant to them.

“The pressures are there. Changes at the bowl level certainly have been impacted by the Playoff, but we are fortunate to be one of the pinnacle games. The demand is not the same as it was and so we have to work a little bit harder and a little bit smarter.”

Regardless of whose name is on the bowl or the factors impacting demand, you can always count on the Fiesta Bowl to be a good time.

“We like to have fun and PlayStation is a fun product, we’re a fiesta after all.”

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