MAY 6, 2004
Reason For Spiderman & Baseball Team Up
By Steve Lombardi, NetShrine.com

According to a report running now on ESPN.com:

As part of a marketing alliance between Major League Baseball Properties, Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios, webbed logos of the upcoming film "Spider-Man 2" will appear on bases and on-deck circles in 15 stadiums of teams playing host to interleague games June 11-13.

Pitching rubbers and home plate will be adorned with "Spider-Man 2" branding before games, but will be replaced with standard white plates once the games start.  Foam fingers and masks with the "Spider-Man 2" logo will be given away at select ballparks. The movie is scheduled to open in theatres June 30.

From another ESPN.com report, it appears that the New York Yankees will not fully comply with this initiative.  According to the story:

One of 15 teams at home that weekend, the Yankees insist they will put ads on the bases only during batting practice, and then just for one game, team spokesman Rick Cerrone said. 

"We try to work with Major League Baseball," Lonn Trost, the Yankees chief operating officer, told the New York Daily News. "But if we think it's something that's not good for the Yankees and Yankee Stadium, we're not going to do it."

Trost told the paper that the Yankees, who host the Padres that weekend, would not allow the logo on the rubber of the pitching mound. The Spider-Man image on the on-deck circle, however, would stay throughout the game.

In the ESPN.com story on the Yankees, New York pitcher Mike Mussina is quoted as saying:  "Where do we go from here? Chico's Bail Bonds on us?  Somebody's making money. They're using every place they can to advertise."

The quote by Mussina (which references the uniforms worn by the “Bad News Bears” in the movie of the same name) is funny.  Seems Mike has no concern about wearing complimentary cleats featuring an advertisement in the form of a logo on them.  Nor does he have an issue with using a glove in the field with a logo on it.  Mussina has never spoken in the past about having a problem with those firms making money by featuring their logo on the field of play.

Nonetheless, Mussina is not alone in his opposition of this partnership between Major League Baseball and the Spiderman 2 movie.  Fans across the nation have voiced their opinions on this matter quickly and loudly.  Many fear that this move is the first stepping stone towards players wearing ads on the uniforms, etc., and they are not happy about it.

This reaction, like Mussina’s opinion, is interesting as well.  Have the fans not noticed the auditory advertisement assault already in place during a Major League Baseball broadcast?  Just about every pitching change these days on television and radio is accompanied by an announcement of “This call to the bullpen is brought to you by [insert name of Phone Company].”  Just about every replay on television of a player caught stealing these days is prefaced by a declaration along the lines of “Here is the LoJack caught stealing replay..”

Is there really much difference between having our ears full of ads while watching a baseball game and having our eyes full of ads?  

Besides, has not baseball always policed itself when advertising partnerships cross the line?  Remember recently when every homerun in a game was followed by a tag line of “Hey [name of batter who hit the homer]. This Bud’s for you!” – and baseball later killed that once players said it may cause kids to want to drink beer?

Is not the Spiderman 2 campaign now just another log on the marketing through baseball games pile?  Hey, bub, where’s the hubbub?

Actually, there is an issue here.  What Major League Baseball needs to focus on is that perception is reality.  While perhaps the players and fans are misconstrued in being upset about this “new development in the trend of ads in baseball games,” the fact that they are upset is genuine.  Therefore, if baseball cares about the reactions and feelings of the fans, etc., they should reconsider this Spiderman 2 alliance.  

The solution is simple.  Instead of having the logos on the bases during the game, play the game as normal (with standard bags).  Then, after the game, install the Spiderman 2 bags and allow all children in the park under the age of 12 to come down to the field and “run the bases” (in a controlled and orderly fashion) – much like some teams allow children to run the bases following the last day game of a home stand.  Further, if needed, have “Spiderman” (in costume) throw out the ceremonial first pitch of the game – and perhaps have him tour the stands during the game to pose for pictures with the fans.  Lastly, have a fan giveaway - - the first 14,000 fans under the age of 12 attending the game receive a free coupon, which when mailed into 'somewhere' with two used ticket stubs from the movie Spiderman 2, enters them into a raffle to win four years of free college tuition (to the school of their choice) once they graduate high school.  (One winner selected at random prior to Game 1 of the 2004 World Series.)

It is doubtful that anyone could be upset with a plan such as this suggested one.  And, this plan would also meet the desired needs (in this deal) of baseball and the Spiderman 2 movie as well.

Shoot, you can even throw in having Spidey lead the crowd in the signing of “Take me out to the ballgame” during the 7th inning stretch (following the signing of “God Bless America”).

You have to wonder why baseball did not suggest such a plan?  Perhaps Commissioner Bud and the Boys preferred creating a buzz about baseball now – during the NBA playoffs and as NFL mini- camps approach.  Just enough controversy to get the public's baseball juices up and keep MLB in the first 15 minutes of SportsCenter– but not a buzz along the totally negative lines (like the BALCO situation).  It is possible.  

Just the mere thought of it now while scrawling this on the scorecard gets my spider sense tingling……….

Steve Lombardi is the Creator & Curator of NetShrine.com.  Scrawling On The Scorecard appears regularly during the baseball season and sporadically during the off-season.  Steve can be contacted at sots@netshrine.com

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