The agency represented Major League Baseball in Germany over the course of two decades. With the baseball world celebrating the Atlanta Braves’ first World Series victory since 1995, ITMS looks back at an exciting time for baseball in Germany, when the agency’s ongoing campaigns helped establish America’s pastime with new audiences.
The Atlanta Braves have won their first World Series title since 1995 after defeating the Houston Astros 7-0 in Game 6 of the series final at Minute Maid Park in Houston. 1995 was the year when Major League Baseball celebrated its 125th season and ITMS, a young agency focused on sports marketing at the time, was about to embark on a Herculean task to promote the sport of baseball in soccer-mad Germany. An undertaking that evolved into a mission that would last more than twenty years and help popularize the sport in Germany for the long term.
From 1996 to 2018, Major League Baseball (MLB), the biggest baseball league globally and the oldest of the major professional sports leagues in the US and Canada, was represented in Germany by ITMS. It goes without saying that there’s still plenty of excitement in the Bad Nauheim agency’s offices when the World Series comes around. In the course of many years, ITMS developed and implemented a successful strategy and creative campaigns to promote the sport. Handling everything from marketing, public relations, sponsorships, event management, retail promotions, and MLB’s television rights, the agency focused on getting kids excited for America’s pastime, organizing a highly acclaimed school’s program to give baseball a foundation for development and growth in an untapped market.
The development initiative “Play Ball!”, which the agency implemented on behalf of MLB International in cooperation with the German Baseball and Softball Association (DBV) to get youth involved in the game, included three distinct elements. The multi-tiered youth development program consisted of a school’s program called Pitch, Hit & Run, the MLB Roadshow, an interactive promotional tour, and Play Ball!, a youth league development program.
The Pitch, Hit & Run program, first introduced in 1996, provided a fun introduction to the sport by integrating baseball into physical education classes. The program’s first few years were marked with rapid expansion in the number of participating schools, which would eventually reach more than a thousand schools spread across the entire country. The Play Ball! Leagues further enhanced the classroom aspect of the program and provided students with opportunities to play the game of baseball outside of the school system and compete against similarly interested students from their region.
The MLB Roadshow, an interactive baseball tour proved to be the longest running program. Successfully running from 2009 to 2018, the tour brought baseball to the forefront in Germany’s biggest cities and most-frequented city center locations. It also visited schools, and was part of diverse music events and sports festivals, getting old and young, as well as big and small, excited about baseball.
In 2007, ITMS’s large-scale grassroots initiative for the baseball sport was nominated from a list of over 40 possible candidates for the prestigious German Sports Marketing Award. The “Play Ball!” campaign impressed the jury first and foremost with its high-level of involvement and its impressive figures. Over the course of more than ten years, 1.5 million children in a total of 1,100 schools actively participated in the school’s program thus coming into constant contact with the MLB brand, its sponsors, and the sport of baseball. Through an effective sponsorship with Burger King, acquired, negotiated, and managed by ITMS, and an optimally networked communications concept with the other partners and licensees, the program would annually achieve a media reach of an additional 50-plus million contacts in print, TV, radio and online.
ITMS secured Burger King as title sponsor as well as a select number of additional partners such as Chevrolet, ESPN, Majestic Athletic, Marriott Hotels, McAfee and New Era Cap for a commitment that lasted ten years and helped finance the development programs with an annual budget of around 400,000 euros.