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.”
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, Sovereign Bank 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.
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 Corp., which operates the service.
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 currently filming a series of vignettes with Mets players at spring training.
Similarly, SNY affords additional elements, beyond 30-second spots, to its three-year deal with the New York District Council of Carpenters.
Once again, a Mets player (last year it was the since-departed pitcher Tom Glavine) will be involved in the creative, talking about projects around the area, including Citi Field. Moreover on every Mets home stand field reporter Kevin Burkhardt will conduct a Citi Field update with Danny Sessna, one of the workers involved with erecting the new stadium. The Carpenters group also has signage at Shea.
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 complement on-air and in-stadium components with online opportunities at an enhanced SNY.TV
Asked how much SNY’s ad sales efforts bump up against YES’s and its Yankees telecasts, Raab replies there’s room for sponsors to work with both clubs and their respective RSNs.
“New York is a baseball town; 8 million people attended MLB games here last season. On any given night, baseball accounts for 8 to 12 ratings points,” he said. “Marketers that have certain demographic targeting needs or flight requirements should be involved with SNY and YES. They say rising tides lift all boats. It’s a good situation for all parties when both teams are competitive.”