Still basking in the glow of Mark McGwire’s record-breaking (albeit pharmaceutically-enhanced) achievement of last year, Major League Baseball is ramping up its licensing biz for the `99 season.
Hasbro has stepped up to the plate first with three new product lines, including a Nerf MLB Smash-It Pitching Machine for kids (US$19.99), a line of Pro-Action Athletes comprised of six fully articulated action figures modeled after the hottest players in the game (US$7.99) and an MLB Monopoly board game.
Starting in April, seven new vid games are being released by MLB’s interactive partners, namely Nintendo, N89 Studios, Accolade, Electronic Arts, Acclaim Entertainment and Interplay. Ranging in price from US$39.99 to US$59.99, the new titles will be for the Nintendo 64, CD-ROM, Dreamcast and Color Game Boy platforms. In September, Mattel will release a line of MLB Barbie collector dolls (US$44.99). Initially, the limited edition dolls will be outfitted in the uniforms of the Yankees, Cubs and Dodgers, with other team uniforms to follow later in the year.
In the stationery category, MLB Properties and the Major League Baseball Players Association have licensed P.A. Plymouth to create MLB player portfolios, theme books, memo books and assignment books.
To ensure that the merchandise of its licensees gets a better placement at retail, MLB has inked a two-year sponsorship deal with Toys `R’ Us. Under the terms of the agreement, TRU becomes the official toy retailer of Major League Baseball, and will develop in-store MLB promotions and merchandising walls featuring licensed MLB product. For MLB, the deal gives it the opportunity to reach the young demographic that TRU already attracts, says Mark Tatum, manager of new business at MLB.
TRU will kick off the sponsorship on the 21st of this month, with a sweepstakes promo offering kids the chance to be a batboy or batgirl at the 1999 All-Star game, and to throw the first pitch at a World Series game. In early spring, TRU will begin running a gift-with-purchase promotion, which will see it give away an MLB All-Star Game and TRU logoed baseball to each customer who purchases US$25 worth of merchandise.