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DHL SIGNS THREE-YEAR DEAL WITH MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

Partnership Includes Co-Branded Pitching Award

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Major League Baseball has signed yet another sponsorship deal with a major marketer despite the ongoing controversy about player steroid use.
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The latest is a three-year agreement with global shipper DHL that will see a host of co-branding initiatives, including ads, packaging and a new MLB-sanctioned and DHL-sponsored award honoring the game's best relief pitcher each month and at season's end.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Splashy press conference
The new pact, which comes on the heels of MLB's marketing agreements with General Motors Corp. and General Mills, was announced today in a splashy press conference in MLB's midtown Manhattan office that was attended by a mix of reporters, executives, uniformed DHL truck drivers and one Hall of Fame relief pitcher, former Oakland A's closer Dennis Eckersley, who introduced the award.

But steroids, not saves, were on the minds of the reporters there. The first question asked of the panel of DHL executives was whether the steroids crisis engulfing some of game's best players had at all shaken the marketer's confidence in the league.

"We gave it some consideration," said John Pearson, executive vice president, commercial, for DHL Express. "We have a huge degree of confidence that the issue is going to get better and go away.

Strong international player
DHL is trying to hammer away at FedEx and UPS's lock on the express-delivery market in this country. For a company that's much stronger internationally than in the U.S., a sponsorship with the nation's pastime is a bold stroke. DHL's major brand push began last year, with a Summer Olympics sponsorship.

Its baseball-themed ads, created by WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather, New York, break in April. One features a riff on the baseball movie A League of Their Own with the punch line, "There's No Crying in Shipping." Another features the hirsute Boston Red Sox outfielder Johnny Damon.

As part of the arrangement, DHL will also become MLB's official shipper.

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