FIRST BASEBALL FIELD PRODUCT PLACEMENT SPARKS CONTROVERSY

Spider-Man Movie Logo Plans Draw Fire From Sports Fans

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Major League Baseball has found itself in the unusual position of defending its upcoming marketing alliance with Sony Corp.'s Columbia Pictures, in which the logo from the film Spider-Man 2 will be placed on the field of play, a first for the sport.

On the bases
Under the terms of the deal, announced

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yesterday, MLB agreed to put a Spider-Man logo (a web superimposed on a red background) on the bases and in the on-deck circle at 15 major league parks from June 11-13.

Spider-Man 2 opens in theaters June 30. The first movie, which came out in 2002, was a blockbuster for Sony.

Speaking through the media to detractors who say it takes away the integrity of the game and could be the first step toward more advertising -- possibly on team uniforms -- MLB's president and chief operating officer, Bob DuPuy, said the criticism was misplaced.

'A natural fit'
"We've been accused over the years of not marketing to young people," Mr. DuPuy said yesterday in a hastily arranged conference call. "Spider-Man was a popular movie and [Spider-Man 2] will be a popular movie, just as baseball is popular. It's a natural fit. It's an effort to provide some modest entertainment and doesn't detract from the play at all."

Jaqueline Parkes, MLB's senior vice president for marketing and advertising, pointed out that the league has had logos on the bases for the last five years, and in fact will have the bases adorned with the pink ribbon logo that has come to symbolize breast cancer awareness for games this Sunday, Mother's Day.

But she also pointed out that this was the first time the league has done a commercially aligned promotion for pay. Sony is paying a reported $3.6 million -- to be divided among all 30 teams -- to have the Spider-Man 2 logo on the bases and to have promotions at the parks.

Spider-Man Sleepover
But the kitty won't be divided evenly. Mr. DuPuy said that "participating clubs will receive payment based on market size and level of participation." So while the New York Yankees certainly have the largest market, it appears their level of participation won't be as large as some franchises. The Yankees only plan to use the Spider-Man 2 logo on the bases during pre-game and batting practice. The Toronto Blue Jays, by contrast, are having several promotions in addition to the logos, including a Spider-Man Sleepover, in which fans can sleep overnight in Toronto's SkyDome, which has a retractable roof.

Baseball purists
But baseball purists are outraged. Earlier this year, when the Yankees and Tampa Bay Devil Rays opened the season with a special series in Tokyo, MLB received a reported $10 million to place the logo for copy machine company Ricoh on the sleeves of the players.

But Mr. DuPuy pooh-poohed any supposed anger.

"Frankly, we haven't heard from one fan and we're up 15% in attendance [this year]," he said. "It didn't seem to have an impact on the fans watching the game."

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