ESPN is ready to go to bat with a global promotional campaign, including embattled New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez, behind its coverage of the World Baseball Classic.
The multimedia campaign's first pitch is set to begin on Valentine's Day in support of ESPN and ESPN2 televising 23 games of the World Baseball Classic, beginning March 5.
Tagged, "National pastime. International stars," the campaign features Jorge Cantu, Derek Jeter, Ichiro Suzuki and Rodriguez -- paying homage to their respective Mexican, American, Japanese and Dominican heritages and the pride it instills in them as they prepare to participate in the global baseball tournament.
An ESPN spokeswoman told Multichannel News that the spots were filmed over the Martin Luther King weekend in January, before Rodriguez acknowledged that he had used steroids while a member of the Texas Rangers from 2001-2003.
If Rodriguez decides not to play for the Dominican Republic in the WBC, ESPN would revisit its plan, which currently calls for the multimedia campaign to break this upcoming weekend.
After Sports Illustrated reported that he tested positive for performance enhancing drugs on si.com Feb. 8, A-Rod acknowledged in an interview with ESPN baseball reporter Peter Gammons on Feb. 10 that he has used steroids during the aforementioned span and prior to Major League Baseball instituting a drug policy against such substances.
Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, in an interview with USA Today, said he was considering taking action against Rodriguez, arguably the game's best player. However, Selig seemed to be backing off that stance today. There had also been some reports suggesting that A-Rod may have to testify in front of a Congressional panel.
The two :30 TV spots will feature some Spanish and Japanese dialogue subtitled in English to emphasize the global nature of the event and connect players with the fans who share their ethnic ties. Each athlete lists his reasons why he will be playing in the World Baseball Classic:
Rodriguez: I'm playing for my country. I'm playing for quisqueya la bella (the Beautiful Quisqueya);
Cantu: I'm not just playing for my sport. I'm playing for la raza (the people);
Jeter: There's one title we still haven't won. The one for our country; and
Suzuki: Japan is the reigning world champion. My job is to defend that title.
Japan topped South Korea to win the inaugural WBC in 2006.
Produced by ESPN and its agency DCode, the campaign will feature national cable television spots, print ads in English and Spanish, rolling out Feb. 23, and online support.
Local sports radio and out-of-home executions such as billboards will be targeted in Los Angeles, Miami and New York, with the Big Apple's subway system also in the media mix. Street teams will be deployed in the three cities to distribute branded items such as posters, pocket schedules and snacks in sports bars and high traffic venues. ESPN Deportes and ESPN International also will use various elements of the creative.
In addition to ESPN and ESPN2 televising the 23 games in high-definition, the contests will be simulcast on subscriber broadband service ESPN360.com. MLB Network will air the tournament's other 16 games in the States.
Additionally, ESPN Deportes will televise all 39 games with ESPN International distributing up to 39 games.