WBC TV, Sponsorships Show Growth

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(from Sports Business Journal, February 25, 2013) Despite the last two successful world baseball tournaments in 2006 and 2009, the World Baseball Classic (WBC) has shown no signs of complacency. For this year’s tournament, the WBC is pursuing a greater portion of the viewership market through promotions of new teams, star players, and global sponsorships.

One of the most significant changes WBC has made this year is the tournament’s expansion from 16 teams to 28 teams, from which a qualifying round was held this past fall. This expansion included some surprise teams, such as Brazil, who squeezed past their qualifying game in what many have called one of the most exciting international games in history. Lino Garcia, ESPN Deportes General Manager, says, “This is a great thing for baseball. This is a sport that hasn’t resonated [in Brazil] traditionally.” Thus, the market in Southern America has the potential to grow significantly.

Similar to previous international tournaments, a significant portion of concern for the fans is on the star power, or lack thereof, representing the various teams. Because the WBC directly precedes the MLB regular season, many players are hesitant to put themselves at risk for injury so close to their contracted seasons. Paul Archey, MLB Senior Vice President of International Business, understands this dilemma many players face, but is confident moving forward, as he says, “The issue with the players is always going to be a challenge. You’re never going to be at 100% in terms of getting who you want. But overall, I’m really pleased. There’s a lot of legit star power involved.”

With the WBC scheduled to begin this Saturday, over 60 sponsorships have been sold, including global contracts with organizations like MetLife and Brand USA. Out of the 16 teams, 9 will be wearing sponsorship logos on their uniforms, helmets, or both. As a result of the WBC’s heightened pursuit of mainstream attention, TV viewership is expected to increase and attendance is projected to exceed the 2009 benchmark of 801,408.