Minor League Baseball took a step toward implementing an industry-wide marketing program by announcing the hiring of a chief marketing officer this afternoon.
Michael Hand, who has spent the past four years at IMG Worldwide in New York City, will guide the sport’
s Project Brand initiative, which MiLB president Pat O’Conner introduced at the Winter Meetings nearly four months ago as a way to sell minor league baseball as an entity and promote its model of affordable, family-friendly entertainment to major companies. Hand most recently served as senior vice president of marketing and strategy for the IMG college division, in which he oversaw business development across the company’s 70 collegiate platforms.
“We feel that Michael is the most dynamic and qualified person to lead Project Brand and help our clubs and industry reach their maximum potentials in terms of branding and sponsorships,” O’Conner said in a release. “His vast business experiences working for some of America’s biggest and most powerful brands for more than 15 years are tremendous assets that he brings to the position. Michael can utilize these skills to tell Minor League Baseball’s story, as he establishes business relationships with companies who recognize the attractive demographic market that exists through the more than 41 million fans that our clubs attract annually.”
The Project Brand national marketing campaign will replace Minor League Baseball’s previous marketing strategy, which pairs individual teams with relevant companies and has produced marginal profits despite otherwise significant growth in minor league attendance and exposure over the past 20 years. It begins this season, though O’Conner and other industry leaders have said they do not expect it to profitable in its first two years. Every minor league franchise will be included in the initiative and has been encouraged, but not required, to pay a $15,000 investment fee. The teams that do invest are promised a three-to-one return on their investment as well as an annual residual return for as long as it is profitable.
“Minor League Baseball has clubs in 43 of the 50 states with great fans that represent a cross section of our country,” Hand said in a release. “I look forward to building the profile of our $700 million industry in the corporate community and beginning partnerships with companies who recognize the appealing nature of our industry and fans.”