Fri, May 07, 2004 - Page 24 News List

Spider-Man snags major-league bases

AMERICAN BASEBALL Marketing efforts seem to be spinning out of control as the bases in Gotham as well as other US ballparks will sport a comic-book hero whose image may be quickly turning villainous

AP , NEW YORK AND TORONTOAP, MIAMI, FLORIDA

Orioles center fielder Luis Matos makes a catch on a fly ball hit by Aaron Rowand of the White Sox at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland, Wednesday. Chicago's Shingo Takatsu of Japan was the winning pitcher.

PHOTO: AP

American LeagueIn the latest example of a sponsor's stamp on the sports world, ads for the movie Spider-Man 2 will be placed atop bases at US major league ballparks during games from June 11-13.

The promotion, announced Wednesday, is part of baseball's pitch to appeal to younger fans -- and make money along the way.

But the New York Yankees, one of 15 teams at home that weekend, balked at the idea after the deal was announced. They will put ads on the bases only during batting practice, and then just for one game, team spokesman Rick Cerrone said.

While commemorative logos have been on bases for special events such as the All-Star game or World Series, the Hall of Fame knew of no other commercial ads on bases, spokesman Jeff Idelson said.

"This was a unique chance to combine what is a sort of a universally popular character and our broad fan base, including the youth market we're trying to reach out to," said Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer. "It doesn't impact the play or performance of the game."

Nowadays, ads can show up just about anywhere in sports.

Telecasts of major league and college football games, for example, include virtual ads visible just to TV viewers. College football bowl games are named for advertisers. Boxers' backs bear stenciled ads. Just last week, a court ruled that Kentucky Derby jockeys could wear sponsors' patches on their uniforms.

"I guess it's inevitable, but it's sad," said Fay Vincent, a former baseball commissioner and former president of Columbia Pictures, which is releasing Spider-Man 2.

"I'm old-fashioned. I'm a romanticist. I think the bases should be protected from this. I feel the same way I do when I see jockeys wears ads: Maybe this is progress, but there's something in me that regrets it very much," he added.

The ads, about 10cm-by-10cm with a red background and yellow webbing, won't appear on home plate. The Yankees did agree to allow ads in the on-deck circles during their series that weekend against San Diego.

Spider-Man 2 opens in the US June 30, and the weekend in early June was picked because it is during interleague play, which draws higher attendance than usual.

The movie promotion has been in the works for more than a year and will include ad buys and ballpark events, such as giving masks to fans, said Jacqueline Parkes, baseball's senior vice president for marketing and advertising.

"We need to reach out to a younger demographic to bring them to the ballpark," Parkes said. "They are looking for nontraditional breakthrough ways to convey Spider-Man messaging ... It's the future of how we generate excitement inside the stadium and about the game itself."

Baseball will receive about US$3.6 million in a deal negotiated by Major League Baseball Properties with Marvel Studios and Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Inc, a high-ranking baseball executive said on condition of anonymity.

Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker didn't think the ads would make a difference.

"I don't care," he said. "You've still got to touch base, whether they got spiders, scorpions or snakes on them."

Blue Jays 10, Royals 3

Vernon Wells homered twice and tied a career high with five RBIs, and Roy Halladay pitched a strong game to lead the Toronto Blue Jays to a 10-3 victory Wednesday night over the hapless Kansas City Royals.

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