News

Amazin' Gains

3/16/2008 8:00 PM Eastern

The trade for Johan Santana was the New York Mets' big off-field acquisition. The addition of the southpaw pitcher has also been good for business at SportsNet New York, the TV home for the ballclub.

Brian Erdlen, who was recently promoted to vice president of ad sales at SNY, said the new Amazin' ace's arrival promoted “call backs for renewal pacts and opened some client doors that had been closed.”

Added SNY president Steve Raab: “We had a great upfront going and then we got an extra jolt when the Mets signed Santana.”

UPFRONT UP 30%

At this juncture, that jolt, plus ratings that have nearly doubled to a 3.3 average household rating in the New York City market — the best-ever mark for a regional sports network for Mets games, which had previously aired on MSG Network and FSN New York — over SNY's inaugural 2006 season, has resulted in upfront sales pacing 30% ahead of year through early March.

Network officials said some 40 new clients for SNY telecasts have come on board during the upfront this year, including Nikon, Jaguar, Anheuser-Busch, Papa Johns, AT&T, Bacardi and Bermuda Tourism.

Among SNY's top incumbents: Verizon Communications; Nissan, which sponsors the post-game show; Capital One Bank, formerly known as North Fork Bank; and Cablevision, which has expanded its role as the network's official HD game, pre- and post-game telecast sponsor.

This season all Mets games will be shot in the enhanced format (last year only the home contests were), and the cable operator will also benefit from backdrop signage positioned behind SNY's broadcast team.

Another new SNY sponsor, Sovereign Bank, hopes to make good use of one of the net's on-air crew. Analyst and former Mets hurler Ron Darling will serve as a spokesman for Sovereign in the metro New York area, where the bank has vastly increased its presence to around 200 branches, largely through the 2006 acquisition of Independence Community Bank.

“We wanted to make a branding investment with SNY and Ron Darling, similar to the one we have with NESN and Jerry Remy. It's a strategy that worked well for us in Boston,” said Sovereign senior vice president and director of marketing communications and sponsorships Robert Hand, who noted that Darling will appear in six creative executions.

Hand said Sovereign's seven-figure investment with SNY includes commercials in all games, plus an increased load on Tuesday nights, when it will serve as presenting sponsor, a position that will be enhanced by on-air billboards during the contests and on-air mentions leading up to the games.

Asked whether Sovereign considered a schedule on YES Network, cable home of the New York Yankees, Hand said the bank “looked at the whole market” and thought SNY offered the “best value” and proximity to viewers and its branch locations: The bank has many outlets in the Mets “country” of Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island.

Officials said integrated campaigns, stemming from ownership of the team and network, also was a key business driver: SNY is controlled by Sterling Entertainment Enterprises (tied to the club's ownership), Time Warner Cable and Comcast, which operates the service.

BRINGING IN WOMEN

For instance, Palmer Hand Lotions' “soft hands” defensive play package “was a way to bring a women's-targeted brand to the network,” said Erdlen. The element, featuring the game's top glove work, appears on TV, online and on the DiamondVision scoreboard at Shea Stadium.

This year, the parties, as part of a one-year renewal, have expanded the relationship and are currently filming a series of vignettes with Mets players at spring training.

Currently, there are 25 sponsors that have a media schedule with the network and a presence at Shea, a total Erdlen believes can double next year, when the Mets move into their new home, Citi Field.

The sales teams for both the network and ball club meet on a weekly basis and often approach clients collectively. “The ownership alignment is a core strength in terms of developing integrated packages,” Raab said.

The parties are also working toward finishing up a number of deals that will see complement on-air and in-stadium components with online opportunities at an enhanced SNY.TV.

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