Baseball ads make a splash

Fox, TBS scoring with Oct. playoff spots

“Take me out to the ball game” is the song on the lips of Madison Avenue media buyers these days.

Thanks to robust advertiser demand, Fox has pre-sold about 90% of its spots in the World Series and the American League Championship Series, and TBS is more than 80% sold for all of its games in the postseason divisional-baseball series and the National League Championship Series.

“A number of categories are driving the spending, including consumer electronics, automotive and entertainment companies,” said John Rash, senior VP of Campbell Mithun, the media buyer.

Mike Law, group director of Carat USA, another top buyer, said a number of advertisers are gravitating toward postseason baseball (which kicks off a week from Wednesday), because there are few spots left on the broadcast networks’ schedules for October.

“You may see a slightly different set of advertisers on postseason baseball this year,” Law said. Young male baseball fans are valuable to a media buyer because they typically don’t watch as much TV as other demo groups, and live sports events tend to be TiVo-proof, another plus for advertisers.

More men are likely to watch the divisional playoffs next week, Rash said, because a number of big-city teams will be rivals in the post-season. Although the final standings are not set yet, teams that have either already made the cut or look like shoo-ins include the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, New York Mets, Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox.

TBS’ decision to outbid ESPN for as many as 20 postseason games is looking like a smart move, said Law. TBS is ponying up $150 million a year to Major League Baseball for a seven-year contract through the 2013 season. (TBS’ license fees also cover 26 Sunday afternoon games during the season.)

Fox shells out $257 million a year for seven years for one of the League Championship Series (alternating each year with TBS) and the World Series. Also included in the deal is a schedule of Saturday-afternoon regular-season games.

Chip Caray and Tony Gwynn will be the lead post-season announcing team for TBS. The network has signed three other teams to help cover the divisional playoffs: Dick Stockton and Bob Brenly; Ted Robinson and Steve Stone; and Don Orsillo and Joe Simpson. Brenly will join Caray and Gwynn to announce the National League Championship Series. The studio team for TBS throughout the playoffs is Ernie Johnson, Cal Ripken Jr. and Frank Thomas.

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