MasterCard International is pumping up promotions associated with its sponsorship of Major League Baseball.
In the second season of a four-year sponsorship deal, MasterCard said its 1999 marketing program will dwarf last year's.
Included is a contest in which fans vote for an "all-century team." A panel of sportswriters, baseball executives, and historians has compiled a list of 100 nominees, and fans will be invited to cast ballots beginning July 13, when the All-Star game is played at Fenway Park in Boston.
MasterCard spokesman Chris Monteiro stressed the "fully integrated" nature of the campaign.
MasterCard will call attention to it in one of its "Priceless" advertising spots, to premiere during the All-Star Game and run until the fall, as well as through Internet marketing, direct mail, and an exclusive store marketing agreement with Kmart.
Another piece of the promotion is a sweepstakes in which five MasterCard users will win all-expense-paid trips for four to the World Series, where they will watch the games with members of the all-century team.
All MasterCard transactions between July 13 and Sept. 10 will constitute sweepstakes entries. Four winners will be chosen randomly, and one will be chosen from among Kmart transactions.
The association has signed Sparky Anderson-third on the all-time list of baseball managers as ranked by games won-as the official program spokesman.
Mr. Anderson is the only manager to have won World Series in both the National and the American leagues, with the Cincinnati Reds and Detroit Tigers, respectively.
MasterCard said this year's baseball campaign focuses on card use, whereas last year's stressed brand recognition. The 1998 "MasterCard Major League Summer" featured a sweepstakes to win All-Star Game tickets; a MasterCard "value card" for exclusive offers at four participating retail chains; and a charitable component, in which MasterCard donated up to $500,000 to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
MasterCard has used baseball before in its "Priceless" series. One spot featured a boy going to a game with his father, and another highlighted last year's home run competition between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire.
By bringing people to the World Series to sit with baseball greats, "We're able to bring our 'Priceless' campaign to life," said Jeff Price, vice president of sponsorships and events at MasterCard. This is a "once- in-a-lifetime trip."
For the all-century team promotion, sponsored jointly by MasterCard and Major League Baseball, fans will be asked to choose two players at each infield position, two catchers, six pitchers, and nine outfielders. The winners will be announced on NBC the opening night of the World Series.
Ballots will be distributed in advertising inserts in Sports Illustrated and TV Guide, at some baseball stadiums, at Major League Baseball's Web site, and at Kmart stores.
"MasterCard's support enhances the program by bringing fans closer to the game and its legendary players," said Kathleen Francis, vice president of marketing for Major League Baseball.