Major League overaul

In the midst of a Major League Baseball strike that could strike out the rest of the baseball season, advertisers backing the Toronto Blue Jays are casting about for new ways to invest Jays ad dollars.Labatt Breweries of Canada, Coca-Cola, Speedy...

In the midst of a Major League Baseball strike that could strike out the rest of the baseball season, advertisers backing the Toronto Blue Jays are casting about for new ways to invest Jays ad dollars.

Labatt Breweries of Canada, Coca-Cola, Speedy Muffler King, Nike Canada, and Bell Canada are among the Jays’ starting line-up of sponsors this season.

Labatt, owner of the Blue Jays team and its largest supporter, is looking at several ways to reinvest its baseball marketing budget, says Cal Bricker, Labatt’s director of regulatory affairs.

Bricker will not reveal any details of the options being explored or the amount Labatt has invested in Blue Jays sponsorship.

$2 million budget

Media buyers estimate Labatt’s baseball budget, which includes team sponsorship expenses and tv commercials, runs upward of $1.5 million to $2 million per season.

Coca-Cola is reallocating Jays’ ad funds throughout the business, says Chris Jordan, director of marketing for Coca-Cola.

‘We don’t look at it as simply a media reinvestment, we look at it as a total business reinvestment – product, packaging, all the key elements of the marketing mix,’ Jordan says.

He declines to give details about new media investments and will neither deny nor confirm industry rumors that Coke will not be putting a large portion of the funds back into the tv spots offered as compensation by the networks.

The networks are offering programming with a similarly sized audience skewed heavily towards males, says Tim Harris, group sales manager, sports, for Baton Broadcasting Sales, which airs 35 season games.

Some advertisers need to reach the audience right away and are accepting the new spots, Harris says, adding, others with baseball-specific promotions are adopting a wait-and-see attitude.

It is too early yet to make major decisions about reinvesting ad dollars, says Craig Robinson, director of marketing with Speedy Muffler King, which has a title sponsorship position on the Friday night games broadcast on cbc.

Robinson says if the strike lasts another week, the company will begin to look for alternative buys.

Audience hard to duplicate

Jays advertising penetrates a loyal audience with impact that may be hard to duplicate through other media vehicles, says Doug Checkeris, group vice-president at Toronto-based Media Buying Services.

Checkeris says the fall sports season does not offer large sports sponsorship opportunities that are not already taken by other advertisers.

He says there may not be workable substitutes for major sponsors.

He says the strike will not deter larger sponsors from renewing contracts even if the strike is lengthy.

But Checkeris says smaller advertisers might not want to take the risk again because the loss is harder to absorb.

Bell Canada, which promotes Bell Mobility during Jays games on Toronto am radio station CJCL, The Fan, has been adequately compensated with space on programs that offer a similar audience, says Michelle Smith, advertising co-ordinator for Bell Mobility.

Original consortium

Bell Mobility is a member of the original consortium that helped fund the Toronto SkyDome, home base of the Jays.

Part of its return on investment comes in the form of signage and name exposure in the facility.

Smith says compensation for lack of exposure during the strike will be negotiated when Bell’s contract with the SkyDome is up for renewal.

Nike Canada does limited outdoor advertising with the Jays and has contracts with individual players.

The strike is not damaging the Jays’ trademark value with consumers, says Bill Redford, director of marketing for Nike Canada.

Jordan says the Blue Jay trademark continues to carry a vast amount of consumer equity.

He says funnelling ad dollars into other channels this year is an unfortunate part of the strike and does not indicate permanent separation in advertising with the ball club.