Story by Jonathan Rest, www.sportcal.com
Baseball - 24 May 2011
The IBAF, the international baseball federation, today appointed MP & Silva, the Singapore-based international sports marketing agency, in an advisory role in a five-year deal that it hopes will result in a return of the sport to the Olympic programme for 2020.
In addition to distributing international media rights and securing sponsors for major IBAF competitions, MP & Silva will be working with the federation on the launch of top-level competitions aimed at globalising baseball beyond its traditional Far East and Americas stronghold.
Riccardo Fraccari, president of IBAF, told Sportcal: "They are not only advising us in this. We are true partners. Together we will analyse and try to bring in new tournaments to increase the visibility of baseball and attract new sponsors."
Andrea Radrizzani, group chief executive of MP & Silva, added: "The IBAF is a very interesting federation for us to work with. They are very ambitious when it comes to commercial activities and new formats, and we will have a very strategic role, actively defining which new competitions will take place, and in which markets."
He declined to reveal the exact details of proposed new tournaments, but did say that they would be "global events featuring the top international and club sides," which would be played in the years in between the quadrennial World Baseball Classic, the international competition for professional national teams organised by USA's Major League Baseball.
The next WBC is slated for 2013, meaning that any new major tournaments will "likely come in 2014 or 2015."
Fraccari said that MP & Silva would also be working on youth development in baseball.
The IBAF is busy preparing for the first-ever 12U World Championship, to be held in Taiwan in July, for players aged 12 and under. Fraccari said that the two organisations will soon begin work on developing similar tournaments for under 14 and 15 players next year, to sit alongside the already established 16U, 18U and 21U competitions.
He said: "We will soon have all the age groups covered within a very global development plan. We can guarantee there will a higher level of baseball being played in more countries than ever."
Men's baseball, along with women's softball, was dropped from the Olympic programme for the 2012 games in London on a vote of International Olympic Committee members and its proposed reinstatement for the 2016 games was subsequently rejected when the IOC voted to add rugby sevens and golf to the programme instead.
The IBAF has been working with its softball counterpart, the ISF, on a possible joint pitch to the IOC to get back on the schedule for the 2020 Olympics, but realises that the sport must have as global a following as possible.
Radrizzani said: "The [IBAF's] Olympic dream is another reason why we are working together. We want to expand the baseball vision in order to reach more people through new programmes in countries where baseball is not so popular, with a goal to being back on the programme for 2020."
Radrizzani said that his firm's immediate job, however, will be to revert to type, and secure wide media distribution, and a range of sponsors, for the men's Baseball World Cup, to be held in Panama in October.
He continued: "The prospects for growth are very promising, in Central America and particularly in Asia and, in a strategic partnership with IBAF, we aim to develop a wider international base for this exciting sport and to engage baseball fans in Asia and other key markets more directly."
In December 2007, MP & Silva signed an exclusive deal with the Sports Marketing Japan agency for the worldwide (excluding Japan and Taiwan) sale of broadcast rights to baseball’s final qualifying tournament for the 2008 Olympics.
The deal for the tournament in Taichung, Taiwan had marked MP & Silva's first move away from soccer.
SMJ had been appointed by the IBAF to distribute the marketing and media rights for the qualifying competitions for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Story by Jonathan Rest and originally published at www.sportcal.com