MLB squashes Spider-Man marketing deal

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 7, 2004

NEW YORK - Spider-Man ads on bases didn't fly with baseball fans.

A day after announcing a novel promotion to put advertisements on bases next month, Major League Baseball reversed course Thursday and

eliminated that part of its marketing deal for "Spider-Man 2."

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"It isn't worth, frankly, having a debate about," commissioner Bud Selig said in Oakland before the Yankees-Athletics game.

"I'm a traditionalist," he said. "The problem in sports marketing, particularly in baseball, is you're always walking a very sensitive line. Nobody loves tradition and history as much as I do."

After Selig and others heard the backlash, Spider-Man got picked off base.

"The bases were an extremely small part of this program," said Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer. "However, we understand that a segment of our fans was uncomfortable with this particular component and we do not want to detract from the fan's experience in any way."

Under the original plan, red-and-yellow ads were to appear on bases – but not home plate – during games from June 11-13. The plan began to crumble Wednesday night when the New York Yankees said they would only allow the ads on bases during batting practice – and only for one game that weekend.

While the logos will not be put on bases in big league games, it's still not certain whether they will appear during warmups.

"I thought it was good to pull it," Yankees outfielder Bernie Williams said. "For so many years, we've just had uniforms and bases with no logo. It doesn't surprise me, baseball being the conservative sport that it's always been. It's so slow to change."

A baseball official said the original deal was worth $3.6 million, including merchandise, while a film industry official said it was $2.5 million.

The ads were to appear as part of a deal involving Major League Baseball Properties, Marvel Studios and Sony Inc., the parent of Columbia Pictures, which is releasing the movie on June 30. The promotion will go on with giveaways and other ads at ballparks that weekend.

&uot;We listened to the fans," said Geoffrey Ammer, president of worldwide marketing for the Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group. "We never saw this coming, the reaction the fans had. It became a flashpoint – the reaction was overwhelming."

"We don't want to do anything that takes away from a fan's enjoyment of the game," he said. "Some people thought it was a great idea, but others saw it as sacrilegious."

Ammer said his group approached baseball about pulling the bases promotion.

"We could easily solve it," he said, adding there had been no discussion about whether this would change the deal's value.

Many baseball purists denounced the plan, including Fay Vincent, a former baseball commissioner and president of Columbia Pictures. Having watched jockeys earn the right to have ads on their uniforms for the Kentucky Derby, some thought it was a step too far in the increasing commercialization of sports."

"I think they made a good decision to change their minds," former commissioner Peter Ueberroth said. "I don't think it makes any sense at all. It's a


Teams will have the option of having ads on their on-deck circles during games, according to Jacqueline Parkes, baseball's senior vice president for marketing and advertising.

Baseball's Hall of Fame said it could find no records of ads ever appearing on bases during games.

"At the end of the day, as we said yesterday, it was the smallest element, not that important to us," Parkes said. "While it was something originally they wanted, it is not worth risking or damaging the fans' experience."

Baseball officials were surprised by the reaction, which included several front-page stories in Wednesday's newspapers.

"It just shows the strength of major league baseball and the place people put it," Parkes said.

Minnesota Twins outfielder Torii Hunter – nicknamed "Spider-Man" for his acrobatic catches – was disappointed by the reversal.

"It's for kids, and kids love it," he said. "It would have been cool to see the Spider-Man logo for those three days. Kids could have worn their Spider-Man gear to the stadium."