Major League Baseball has drafted a local team to handle its advertising lineup.
The league hired Boston-based Hill Holliday as its official ad agency for the 2011 season to handle all of its creative and media duties. The account is a huge win for the agency: An estimate by Nielsen Co. found that major media spending by the league was about $20 million last year, and a league official said that figure was close but did not include online spending.
Hill Holliday officials would not discuss the specifics of their upcoming marketing strategies for the league, but said that social media would play a prominent role in reaching out both to fans and to those who don’t consider themselves fans of the sport.
“The approach is based on sharing stories, the lore, the drama of baseball, and more than just among the avid crowd of enthusiasts, but among a broader population,’’ said Baba Shetty, chief media officer at Hill Holliday. “In the era of social media and modern entertainment, we see a huge upside for baseball.’’
The account will be the only one for Hill Holliday that is sports-related, which helps diversify the agency’s roster. Its big-name clients include Dunkin’ Donuts, Bank of America, and Liberty Mutual Group.
“Major League Baseball is a worldwide brand with a strong national presence,’’ said Geoff Klapisch, an advertising professor at Boston University. “It’s a unique advertiser for Hill Holliday. With MLB, they are not a product, and they are not a service. It gives Hill Holliday the opportunity to offer very innovative work, both creative and media-wise.’’
Chris Cakebread, another advertising professor at Boston University, agreed. “It’s a prestigious account in terms of visibility,’’ he said. “It’s good for the region because it brings more attention to the agency.’’
Hill Holliday replaces the ad agency McCann Erickson, which handled the account for eight years. The New York firm, which like Hill Holliday is owned by Interpublic Group of Cos., worked on the league’s recent campaign, “Beyond Expectations,’’ focusing on players’ athleticism. One spot from earlier this year, called “Beyond Perseverance,’’ featured Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
League officials said the advertising account had come up for review this summer, and McCann Erickson declined to defend it.
“It was time to put the account up for review and test the waters to see what fresh thinking was outside,’’ said Jacqueline Parkes, chief marketing officer for Major League Baseball.
League executives spoke with a dozen firms before whittling the list down to six shops that competed in the review. The league said that it chose Hill Holliday because of the way the agency pitched the sport as a social concept and how it could be integrated into various social-media platforms.
“They were very precise on how they outlined today’s media landscape, and then showcased how Major League Baseball could thrive in that landscape,’’ Parkes said.