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Madison Avenue Takes Deeper Swing at Fox’s Major League Events

2021-All-Star-Game-2021
Courtesy of Fox Sports

Some of the nation’s big-spending advertisers are taking a new swing at one of its oldest sports.

When Fox telecasts Major League Baseball’s 2022 All-Star Game from Los Angeles Tuesday night, viewers are likely to notice big-league pitches from 25 marketers that have never purchased spots in the event, including Samsung, Adobe, Banc of America, Intel, Qatar Airways and Airbnb. They will join a slew of commercials from companies like Mastercard, Geico, General Motors, T-Mobile, Apple and Google that are already regular league sponsors.

“We are up 30% higher on a revenue basis in the All-Star Game than we have been in any previous game,” says Mark Evans, executive vice president of sales for Fox Sports, in an interview.

Madison Avenue has long been enamored of sports, so it’s little wonder that advertisers might want to get on the field for one of the season’s bigger events. As more traditional TV viewers move to streaming venues, however, the TV networks and their advertisers are relying more heavily on marquee live events like the All-Star Game, other special match-ups, and post-season play to reach the viewers they might once have connected with during regular TV primetime.

“You can only deliver so much audience in tiny dribs and drabs” who come through targeting viewer niches via digital, says Evans. “You need to be able to get to the masses,” he adds. With that in mind, he says, “some advertisers you might think would be more traditional, more tuned to primetime, female-focused advertisers, are migrating toward live sports.”

As the media sector looks to wrap up the industry’s annual “upfront” ad-sales season, when U.S. TV networks try to sell the bulk of their commercial inventory ahead of the next cycle of new programming, sports content has been one of the market’s briskest sellers. Media-buying executives familiar with recent talks say sports sales wrapped early in the process. Many advertisers, they say, remain interested in efficient ad buys that reach millions of consumers all at once.

Fox has been seeking more than $700,000 for a 30-second ad in the All-Star Game, and as much as $250,000 for similar inventory in its second “Field of Dreams” broadcast coming August 12 from Dyersville, Iowa. That event, says Evans, has already attracted 20 new advertisers and has “exceeded last year’s revenue by north of $2 million” in sales so far. Last year’s All-Star Game captured approximately $20.6 million in advertising, according to Kantar, a tracker of ad spending, while the 2022 “Field of Dreams” game won nearly $6 million.

Fox’s Evans acknowledges that the games aren’t the most difficult properties he has to sell. MLB sponsors typically snap up about 35% of inventory in the All-Star Game. But he also credits a surge in demand from travel and technology advertisers eager to reach big crowds.

The network’s MLB sponsors won’t just buy regular commercials. Some will be woven into All-Star game and analysis segments, including Chevrolet, Geico and Capital One. And during “Field of Dreams,” Evans says, some advertisers will sponsor aerial shots from drones that capture some of the on-scene action, particularly around the Iowa cornfields.