Game goes on for baseball marketers

Blue Jays fever is hardly dead.Amid continuing baseball mania, Major League Baseball is marketing the first World Series programs to corporations north and south of the border.Three Toronto-based firms - Global Marketing, AMK Souvenirs and DGN Marketing and Services - are...

Blue Jays fever is hardly dead.

Amid continuing baseball mania, Major League Baseball is marketing the first World Series programs to corporations north and south of the border.

Three Toronto-based firms – Global Marketing, AMK Souvenirs and DGN Marketing and Services – are to sell post-event memorabilia to companies looking to boost employee morale and customer goodwill.

The memorbilia runs the gamut from programs and pennants to tankards and mug.

Brad Milne, president of Global Marketing, says corporations are using merchandise as part of incentive and giveaway promotions just ahead of press and fan interest certain to build for the Blue Jays season opener this spring.

Michael Bernstein, New York City-based president of Major League Baseball Properties, says the Toronto Blue Jays World Series win last year – a feat which was seen by the world as a win for Canada – encouraged the consortium to sell, for the first time, post-event programs and other commemorative merchandise.

‘There has been greater interest in World Series merchandise and more official programs sold than we might have seen had a team from an American city won the championship,’ Bernstein says.

He says the novelty of the Blue Jays win has meant World Series interest has lasted longer in Canada than in the u.s.

American championship teams traditionally see fans soon turn their attention to football and other professional sports.

The Canadian consortium was put together by sports marketing expert Bob Bushnell, of Florida-based Bushnell & Associates.

Acting under licence to Major League Baseball, it is authorized to sell memorabilia across North America.

New technology allowed the consortium to print copies of the official World Series program within 24 hours of the Blue Jays win, and place them in Toronto stores and elsewhere within five days.

A team of baseball writers and photographers travelled between Toronto and Atlanta during the World Series, daily filing stories and photos right up until the victorious Game 6.

Bushnell first approached AMK Souvenirs last September to oversee retail sales of World Series merchandise when Toronto seemed assured of a playoff spot.

Retail sales of post-event merchandise peaked during the Christmas shopping season.

And earlier, Blue Jays corporate sponsors such as Coca-Cola and Labatt Breweries of Canada came out with commemorative merchandise immediately after the World Series.

But now, Labatt is developing an incentive program for its sales team.

Those attaining or surpassing predetermined sales targets will earn either an official program or a limited edition copy signed by Jays catcher Pat Borders, voted the Most Valuable Player of the World Series.

Elsewhere, Kraft General Foods of Canada has sent commemorative World Series programs to senior management at its food retailing clients.

A covering letter likened the recessionary struggle of 1992 faced by the retail industry to the World Series, promising better fortune ahead.

And Lever Bros. has conducted an in-house promotion to improve employee morale. The company sent official programs to senior managers, thanking them for their hard work.

World Series memorabilia is also being pitched to corporations in Atlanta, the city which saw its team, the Atlanta Braves, lose to the Jays.

In addition, sales are reported brisk in Florida, where the Blue Jays have their spring training camp.

Only 500,000 official programs, with a $10 street price, are to be sold to preserve their perceived collectible value.

Corporations can present programs in leather protective holders, or on acrylic easel stands.

Global Marketing has also developed commemorative tankards and mugs, featuring the Blue Jays crest, available only to corporations.

For Major League Baseball, growing sales of baseball merchandise has provided precious funds at a time when clubs, including the Blue Jays, face ballooning salaries for star-heavy teams.

Sales in 1992 of baseball merchandise were worth an average $3.7 million to Major League baseball clubs.

That figure is well below sales achieved by other professional sport teams, notably in hockey and basketball.

Last year, two-time National Basketball Association champions, the Chicago Bulls, buoyed by the high profile of its star player, Michael Jordan, sold merchandise worth $300 million.