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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Major League Baseball is taking another swing at a promotional tie-in with a movie studio, only this time the league has learned its lesson.
MLB is teaming up with Walt Disney Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer Films to promote "G-Force," a 3-D comedy-adventure family film about a covert government program in which guinea pigs are trained to work in espionage. The flick will open nationwide July 24.
The promotion comes five years after MLB's disastrous agreement with Sony Pictures to put the logo for "Spider-Man 2" on all the bases at every ballpark the weekend before the movie opened in June 2004. Within days of the league's announcement in May, fans and purists denounced the plan to put the ads on the bases, and the promo was killed.
At the time, Major League Baseball Commissioner Allan H. "Bud" Selig said, "The problem in sports marketing, particularly in baseball, is you're always walking a very sensitive line. Nobody loves tradition and history as much as I do."
Integrity of the game
The integrity of the game was very much on the minds of MLB officials this time around.
"We have tremendous respect for the game and we do not want to take away from that," John Brody, senior VP-corporate sales and marketing for MLB, told Madison & Vine from St. Louis, where he is attending a league sponsor summit. "The Spider-Man project had a lot of great ideas; this project has great ideas but is different from that."
Baseball officials called the deal the most comprehensive promotional partnership between MLB and a major motion picture and "G-Force" the first movie to promote its debut during the All-Star Game since Disney's "Angels in the Outfield" in 1994.
The three-tiered promotion includes "G-Force" days at major-league ballparks, with themed-trading-card and movie-ticket/price-pack giveaways during the games. In addition, film is positioned as the exclusive sponsor of in-stadium All-Star Game balloting, with the "G-Force" logo on more than 20 million ballots distributed at the 30 MLB ballparks and more than 100 minor-league ballparks. Finally, if any player hits a grand slam during MLB's All-Star Game on July 14, the first 1 million people who register for the "G-Force Grand Slam Sweepstakes" on Disney.com will receive a free ticket to see the movie on opening day.
'Just kind of found each other'
Mr. Brody said when discussions began with Walt Disney Pictures, "the idea of the movie and the All-Star Game just kind of found each other. It met the necessities for us -- it's a family film, and we believe we are a family entertainment property -- and as we went along, the different layers just kept making sense. I give Disney credit for listening to a lot of nontraditional ideas."
Jim Gallagher, president of marketing for Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, said in a statement, "We hope one of the All-Stars hits a grand slam, because what better way to launch the release than with a million enthusiastic sports fans showing up as part of opening day?"
The odds, however, are decidedly against that. Just one grand slam has been hit in the 79 MLB All-Star Games since the midseason concept was instituted in 1933 (there were two All-Star Games in 1959, '60 and '61, before the league went back to the once-a-year format. Fred Lynn of the California (now Los Angeles) Angels hit the four-bagger in the 1983 game.
Sports and movies seem to be a solid pairing this year. There were four movie-release commercials during Super Bowl XLIII in February, and the National Basketball Association cut deals with Fox, Sony and Universal to highlight four films, one during each round of the playoffs, which end in June. "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" is being highlighted during the first round. The next round will feature "Angels and Demons," followed by "Land of the Lost" during the conference finals and "Year One" during the NBA Finals.