The joint sponsorship agreement between MLB and Little League International is still in its infancy, but big projects are already underway.
The four-year extension also made T-Mobile the official wireless carrier of Little League, leading to the announcement of the T-Mobile Little League Home Run Derby. The event provides a way for Little League to bring national sponsors to a local level across the country, something Little League CMO Liz Brown said is a priority for the organization.
“We’ve always wanted to create identify ways to create custom activations for sponsors,” Brown said. “It’s creating excitement in nontraditional ways for Little League programs.”
The home run derby will be set up similarly to the Little League World Series in that it will feature local and regional tournaments, culminating in the final championship in Williamsport, Pa. The local little leagues will run the tournaments under their own operation, Brown said.
“It adds a little fun and excitement to the community along with their season-long programs,” she said. “Just by giving some kids having an opportunity to shine or have fun.”
Each league will upload their results to a database, and the top 10 players from eight regions will then compete in the East and West Regionals. Following East and West Regional Finals, which will be held at select Major League ballparks, the top eight baseball and eight softball players will represent their regions at the championship in August.
“With the establishment of the T-Mobile Little League Home Run Derby, our baseball and softball players will have the opportunity to hit long balls with their friends, bring excitement to Little League fields around the country and perhaps end up in Williamsport during the Little League Baseball World Series for the championship,” said Steve Keener, Little League president and CEO, in a statement. “We’re looking forward to working with T-Mobile, as they help us support the big dreams of our millions of players around the world.”
The new partnership between T-Mobile and Little League has also spilled over into philanthropy via the support of several Little League organizations in Puerto Rico as the island continues to recover from Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. T-Mobile pledged $60,000 in grants to help three Little League organizations on the island, while CEO John Legere donated $40,000 of his own money to bring the total to $100,000. The money will be used to renovate fields, including new fencing, new dugouts, fresh paint and updating lightning and stands.
“I’ve seen Puerto Rico’s resilience firsthand and feel passionate about this tremendous community,” Legere said in a statement. “T-Mobile stepped up in a major way, but I wanted to do more.”
While the partnership between T-Mobile and Little League is only just beginning, the initial steps are significant. Brown is excited about the potential for more partnerships in the near future.
“Some of our work has been with existing partnerships to extend relationships either way, and that’s starting to come through in early conversations. It’s getting some new interest in some categories neither have partners in or can be meaningful to a youth audience,” Brown said. “We’re in the first year, we’re excited to see how it grows year-over-year and how this collective partnership grows and builds additional programming for our local leagues.”