The All-Star Game is comically awash in corporate sponsorship


This is not one of those “oh, the All-Star Game” is horrible columns people like to write. With the exception of the home field advantage thing and some minor complaints about how voting is conducted and rosters are filled out, I like the All-Star Game well enough. It’s still a real baseball game in most respects, which can’t be said for its football, basketball and hockey counterparts. The Home Run Derby, especially with the tweaks made for last year, is a good deal of fun. It’s basically harmless and sometimes quite enjoyable.

But one thing has been sticking in my craw about it over the past couple of years, and that’s the level of corporate sponsorship involved.

Don’t get me wrong: I know it’s a business and that everyone wants to make a buck. This is not some pinko liberal commie anti-corporate screed. It’s more bemusement than beef. I’m bemused at what the All-Star sponsors think they’re getting out of their sponsorships given how diluted each of them are.

I get a lot of press releases from Major League Baseball in the runup to the All-Star Game, and by doing a cursory search of those in my inbox, I found the following sponsorship notes attached to the Midsummer Classic. I’m probably missing a few:

  • On Tuesday night we will witness the Major League Baseball All-Star Game presented by MasterCard;
  • Before the first pitch is thrown on Tuesday there will be multiple performances by Grammy-winning recording artists, whose names will be identified first by the name of their record labels which, you can imagine, gave some sort of consideration to MLB and/or Fox to get their artists on the telecast;
  • The actual All-Star Game will be preceded by Monday’s Gatorade All-Star Workout Day;
  • The key part of Gatorade All-Star Workout Day is the T-Mobile Home Run Derby;
  • Before we get to that, however, there will be All-Star Sunday featuring the SiriusXM Futures Game;
  • All of these things will be taking place at Petco Park, but stadium sponsorship is pretty quaint by now I suppose;
  • A great many of the participants in the All-Star festivities were selected by fan voting, which was sponsored by Esurance, culminating in the 2016 Esurance All-Star Final Vote (note: all the press releases heavily hashtag these things despite them not having links);
  • This week and over the weekend there are a lot of side events in and around San Diego, including youth league field refurbishment events sponsored by Scotts, a 5K presented by Nike, a group yoga event sponsored by something called Soul Pose and a block party sponsored by Pepsi.

Again, most of these events are probably pretty cool in their own right. Some of them have charitable aspects to them, separate and apart from the many charitable activities MLB will hold in the coming days. I don’t begrudge their existence or the fact, in and of itself, that they’re sponsored by some company. We all have a price. If Pepsi or Esurance wants to throw some money my way I’ll hold some event and allow them to put their logos all over it.

I just can’t help but wonder what, say, MasterCard gets from being the official sponsor of the All-Star Game when there are a dozen others sponsoring a dozen other aspects of it all. Well, I don’t get what MasterCard gets from advertising at all, actually, given how people choose their credit cards, but that’s another topic. How about Gatorade having a subset of its “workout day” sponsored by T-Mobile. Etc.

Mostly, though, I just wonder who or what the All-Star Game is supposed to be serving. The fans? The league? The sponsors? I guess it’s not a mutually-exclusive proposition, but it I imagine all of those complicated business relationships make changing any one aspect of the All-Star Game, if baseball wants an aspect changed, pretty complicated. I imagine that, even if we’re not super unhappy with the All-Star Game, little things that could make it better are unlikely to occur without a lot of meetings and hassles, and who wants any of that? I imagine that the sponsors get the final say on anything that even remotely enters their bailiwick.

This post has been brought to you by “Jason Bourne,” in theaters July 29th, from Universal Pictures.