Analysis: MLB All-Star Game scores revenue home run, despite record low ratings
- The 2018 Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Star Game on July 17 generated $44.8 million in ad revenue, the highest of any of the professional sports league exhibition games over the past year, according to a new Kantar Media analysis shared with Marketing Dive. The strong performance came despite the game's record-low ratings.
- By comparison, the 2018 NBA All-Star Game in February brought in $43.9 million. The 2018 NFL Pro Bowl in January generated $3.9 million in ad revenue, and the 2017 Major League Soccer All-Star Game generated $1.6 million.
- Softbank, Mastercard, Berkshire Hathaway, Ford and Exxon were the top advertisers during the MLB All-Star Game. AT&T and Berkshire Hathaway were the most common advertisers across the four games.
Higher ad revenue generated from the MLB All-Star Game may seem surprising given that ratings reached their lowest point in more than 50 years for the 2018 broadcast. Coverage of the event on Fox drew 8.69 million viewers, a 6% drop from last year's showcase, according to Nielsen data cited in Ad Age. However, marketers likely saw the MLB All-Star Game as an opportunity to reach sports fans during the mid-season — a period when their interest is mounting ahead of the playoffs, per Kantar — and were drawn by the strong ratings that the baseball season had so far brought in.
The success overall underpins how courting a smaller but more engaged audience can sometimes outperform a sheer numbers play. Fox reported somewhat similar findings around the FIFA World Cup earlier this summer. Though ratings were down in the U.S. due to the absence of the men's national team in the tournament, the network, which has the broadcasting rights in the states, reported the event showed strong figures on the advertising front.
The MLB's audience tends to skew older than other sports, which may have also attracted marketers. The All-Star game's TV viewership averaged 56.4 years compared to 54.6 in 2016, per the Nielsen data. The over-50 crowd is better reached via live TV than on digital platforms. As marketers focus much of their attention on millennials and Gen Zers, many often neglect baby boomers, who still account for a massive amount of consumer spending.
That's not to say the MLB eschewed digital channels. To promote this year's exhibition game and attract younger audiences, the MLB live streamed the Home Run Derby VR Championship on Twitch, YouTube, Facebook and Mixer. Younger consumers are less likely to watch live televised games, but are more likely to seek out digital sports content on YouTube and other social media platforms. The league has also continued to work with Intel after forging a partnership last year to offer live and on-demand VR content, including out-of-marketing weekly games, post-game highlights and on-demand replays.