The new effort seeks to link the national pastime with the nation's No. 1 allergy medicine.
Expected to exceed $20 million in spending, the campaign includes TV spots featuring people playing in a montage of baseball "fields" -- from a city playground to rural farmland -- and touting Claritin's role as an official sponsor of Major League Baseball, according to an executive familiar with the plans.
CHASING AWAY ALLERGIES
The 45-second commercial includes a climactic scene of a female Little Leaguer going after a ball in the weeds, only to have her allergies act up, the executive said.
A Schering-Plough spokesman declined to comment on the baseball effort.
The campaign from CommonHealth, Parsippany, N.J., also includes national print ads.
Schering-Plough spent $173 million in measured media promoting Claritin last year, $81 million on network TV, according to Competitive Media Reporting. The marketer spent $80 million through May of this year, $32 million on network TV.
"Claritin is a heavily advertised product and, as we head into the fall allergy season, the more exposure the better," said Alex Zisson, an analyst with Hambrecht & Quist.
The TV push is expected to run through the baseball playoffs and World Series. Schering-Plough has bought time during both, said media executives familiar with its plans, though at press time it could not be confirmed if the MLB spot would run during those broadcasts.
The spot includes the official Major League Baseball logo and a scene shot at Shea Stadium, home of the New York Mets.
The baseball effort was apparently planned only recently. Just weeks ago, the company placed an order to increase 30-second slots bought in TV's upfront sales period to 45 seconds, another media executive said.
The :45 follows U.S. Food & Drug Administration guidelines by weaving in mentions of Claritin's potential side effects.
Claritin leads the $2 billion prescription allergy category. In 1998, it posted $1.1 billion in sales, according to IMS Health. Pfizer's Zyrtec had $355 million, while Hoechst Marion Roussel's Allegra was third with $324 million.
Claritin also is the No. 1 drug advertised direct to consumers, across all categories, according to IMS.
"They've been one of the most aggressive companies in terms of DTC advertising and it's paid off," Mr. Zisson said.
With the Claritin/MLB tie-in -- believed to be the first time a prescription drug has inked a deal to be an official sponsor of a major sports league -- Schering-Plough continues to break new ground.
Last year, the marketer gave DTC advertising a jolt of celebrity with a national TV effort starring former "Good Morning America" host Joan Lunden. It also has mounted outdoor efforts that have seen Claritin and its blue skies cover the insides of subway cars and the outsides of buses.
MERCK LIKES SPORT, TOO
Schering-Plough, however, is not the first to use baseball to promote prescription drugs.
Merck & Co. has used the Baltimore Orioles' Cal Ripken Jr. in ads in medical journals for the hypertension drug Prinivil. This summer, it launched a promotion for Propecia with a cadre of major leaguers competing to see who can