Bringing a Golden Touch to Baseball Marketing

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It’s a long way from working with Kermit the Frog to working with multimillionaire athletes like Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, but Jacqueline Parkes has pulled it off flawlessly.

Jacqueline Parkes, senior vice president for advertising and marketing, Major League Baseball.
Ms. Parkes, as senior vice president of advertising and marketing at Major League Baseball, is recognized as one of the most creative minds in sports marketing. Along with Executive Vice President of Business Tim Brosnan, she’s reshaped the image of baseball through a series of ad campaigns that have played off the sport’s biggest selling point: its history and tradition.

“The historical relevance of our game is a part of society,” says Ms. Parkes, 39. “Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier. Cal Ripken breaking Lou Gehrig’s record for most consecutive games played. These are the things that are part of people’s lives.”

Real people, real passion
And these are the things that Ms. Parkes has woven into MLB’s messages. The “I live for this” campaign, which previously featured the likes of Messrs. Jeter and Rodriguez, was given a twist by Ms. Parkes this year. Instead of again using players, she conceived of a plan to use real people in six different cities, with open casting calls for fans to explain their passion for baseball.

“I think everything she’s touched has been golden,” says a marketing chief at one of baseball’s corporate sponsors. “Jacqueline is someone who could easily jump out of the advertising and marketing department, and end up in the commissioner’s office someday. She’s that in tune with the game.”

“Ten years ago, we tried to market like a package-goods company. Didn’t work,” Ms. Parkes says. “We realized the power of our brand is enormous. We also realized that going to a game at [the Chicago Cubs’] Wrigley Field is a different experience from [the New York Mets’] Shea Stadium.”

Licensing and marketing Muppets
Before her baseball job, Ms. Parkes rose to director of licensing and marketing at Jim Henson Productions. “Jim had a philosophy that when you do something it should be appreciated on many levels and there should be more than one thing it accomplishes,” she says.

Regarding the challenges ahead for professional baseball, Ms. Parkes says MLB, despite its rich history, is no different from any other entertainment property that needs to market itself in a fragmented world.

“There are 500 different ways that consumers can have touch points ... the challenge is to make sure that message is relevant,” she says. “For us, it’s about making sure consumers can access our product wherever they want. Going to a baseball game with dad may have been how previous generations were introduced to baseball but not anymore. Today, kids are being introduced to baseball by video games, by the Internet, by fantasy baseball leagues. We have to make sure we’re a part of all those messages.”

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