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MLB, Spider-Man join forces
05/05/2004  9:14 PM ET
They are two longtime entertainment forces that have enjoyed blockbuster box-office success lately, and they both use webbing around the hands to pull off heroic feats that occasionally make you spill the popcorn.

Now they will be united when Major League Baseball and Spider-Man 2 take the field together June 11-13 at the 15 different ballparks hosting games during that Interleague Play weekend, it was announced Wednesday.

Major League Baseball Properties has teamed with Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios for an unprecedented marketing partnership to support the highly anticipated national release of that motion picture, a sequel to the fifth-highest grossing movie in U.S. history. It will be the latest in a series of events this season that are being jointly coordinated for fans across MLB, including the first Jackie Robinson Day on April 15 and this Sunday's Mother's Day festivities to support the Big Bam! Foundation, a series of activities designed to raise awareness about breast cancer and breast cancer prevention.

During Spider-Man 2 Weekend, which has been scheduled during a segment of the 2004 Interleague Play schedule, ballparks will feature in-park and on-field Spider-Man signage and each Club will feature special Spider-Man promotional events, including giveaways with the world-renowned web crawler. A web logo will appear on bases and on-deck circles during the game, highlights from the movie will run on stadium video boards to promote the motion picture's June 30 release, and MLB Properties and the 15 participating Clubs will promote Spider-Man locally in each market and nationally.

"This is the perfect alliance between two quintessential national pastimes -- baseball and movie-going," said Geoffrey Ammer, president of worldwide marketing for the Colombia TriStar Motion Picture Group. "This partnership celebrates superheroes, whether they are on the field or on the big screen and we are extremely excited about the opportunity to create this unique promotion with Major League Baseball."

Clubs that will be host to Spider-Man 2 Weekend include the Anaheim Angels, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees, Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays. Some clubs will participate for the entire weekend, some for a day, and fans at SkyDome will be able to participate in a Spider-Man sleepover as part of the superhero celebration there.

"Over the past year and a half, we've been doing substantive research to determine the best ways to market the game into the 21st century, and we have overwhelming evidence that we have a property that's . . . never been stronger," said Jacqueline Parkes, senior vice president of advertising and marketing for MLB. "One thing that came out of the research is that we have a huge opportunity with kids, to bring them into the game. We needed to engage them in relevant and meaningful ways.

"(The first Spider-Man) was a phenomenal hit not just to kids but to all generations. . . . The reason we embarked on this relationship with Sony (Columbia's parent company) and Spider-Man 2 is the fact that the brand equity of Spider-Man and Major League Baseball marry up perfectly. They both have huge generational appeal, Americana, so we've got good values."

Bob DuPuy, president of Major League Baseball, said the signage placements for the movie will not detract from the integrity of the actual games. In fact, he said there had been discussions during the year-long talks with Sony to place a web in the netting behind home plate, and that it was rejected.

"It doesn't detract from the game, it adds to the entertainment value of the game," DuPuy said. "We've been accused over the years of not marketing to young people. Spider-Man . . . will be a popular movie across all demographics, and it was a natural fit. It's an effort to provide some modest entertainment and modest excitement and promotional giveaways in a way that doesn't detract at all. Logos on bases won't even be seen from ground-level cameras; it would take an overhead shot."

There will be a web logo on home plate as well, but it will be removed for the start of the game. He added that although this joint-marketing effort around all MLB parks will certainly be a trend that goes through the season -- followed by Father's Day, Fourth of July celebrations of America and then the All-Star festivities -- this does not indicate in any way that Major League Baseball is ready to become one big NASCAR car.

"It's part of our effort to market the game in a holistic style, but mostly to market it to a whole demographic: kids," DuPuy said. "I don't think this portends a significant trend to where promotional opportunities or advertising might be going with baseball. We went through a period, after a century of outfield signage, where we went 20 or 30 years with no outfield signage, and then gradually the outfield signage has come back. It adds a unique flavor and color to each of our individual stadia, which are each unique in their own way.

"The TV eye signage (behind) the plate has become a regular feature of the game, but I don't think this particular promotion, which is again a confluence of the movie industry and baseball with its product, necessarily portends any trend or suggests what next step might be."

There will be similar signage for the next immediate joint marketing effort around MLB parks, this Sunday's Mother's Day celebration at all home ballparks. The tops and sides of bases will feature a pink ribbon with a silhouetted batter, in recognition of the widely known icon for breast cancer awareness.

If recent history is an indication -- and especially with 14 World Series rematches on tap this June -- most ballparks will either be at or near capacity that weekend. So this marketing partnership is not so much about trying to lure fans to a ballpark as it is to add even more entertainment value once they arrive.

"We strategically picked this weekend because kids are out of school, it's a hot day, and we wanted to make sure kids could watch and attend," Parkes said.

DuPuy said all 30 clubs ultimately will receive an equal portion of proceeds given to Major League Baseball Properties for this promotion, with an additional sum going to the home teams that are involved, based in part of their individual level of promotion.

"As with every innovation, the clubs generally have their own ideas," DuPuy said, when asked how individual clubs responded to the idea. "But I would say that this was enthusiastically embraced."

Parkes said the idea of this marketing partnership was brought to Major League Baseball a year ago by McCann Erickson, an advertising agency shared by both Sony and MLB. "They were working on their promotional package for Spider-Man 2," Parkes said, "and they came to us with the opportunity to work with Sony on how to leverage this phenomenal audience they have and this phenomenal audience we have."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.