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Deal Includes Cereal Brand's First TV Campaign in Four Years

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DETROIT ( -- The steroids scandal in Major League Baseball apparently isn't affecting the league's ability to draw sponsors.
One of the last baseball greats to appear on a Wheaties box was Hank Aaron in 2002.

MLB and General Mills' Wheaties cereal announced a two-year sponsorship agreement today that makes Wheaties the official breakfast cereal of Major League Baseball. The league hasn't had a corporate partner in the category since 2003, when Kraft's Post brand dropped its sponsorship.

Financial terms were not disclosed, though corporate partnerships with MLB generally cost about $5 million to $10 million per season.

Returning to the airwaves
As part of the agreement, Wheaties will back the sponsorship by creating a minimum of three national cereal boxes each year featuring MLB marks, logos, current and/or former players. It will also make what it called a "significant media commitment" to national MLB broadcasts on News Corp.'s Fox and Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN, as well as the syndicated This Week in Baseball program with its first TV campaign in four years.

The Wheaties brand is handled by Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi, which is in flux right now on the General Mills account. Seventeen members of Saatchi's General Mills account team left the agency last month after the agency's worldwide account director, Mike Burns, resigned.

Little ad spending
General Mills spent more than $14 million on Wheaties advertising as recently as 2000, according to TNS Media Intelligence, but that numbered dwindled to a virtually non-existent $97,600 through the first 10 months of 2004.

Wheaties also will be a sponsor at John Hancock All-Star FanFest, the interactive baseball theme park that opens Major League Baseball's All-Star Week, and will be a title sponsor of one of the event's attractions.

Minneapolis Millers
Wheaties debuted in 1924 and has had a long association with sports dating to the 1930s, when it purchased an outfield sign at Nicollet Park in Minneapolis, home to the minor league baseball Minneapolis Millers. The sign introduced Wheaties' new slogan -- "The Breakfast of Champions" -- which has remained to this day.

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