Winter Meetings: MiLB Begins Search For Marketing Leader

NASHVILLE—Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner spent a good part of his stay in Nashville explaining the sport’s new marketing plan to his constituents during league meetings. Next up on his to-do list is finding someone to run the program.

O’Conner said Minor League Baseball has hired New York executive search company to recruit an experienced person who will lead a new marketing program designed to sell minor league baseball as a whole to major companies. The chief marketer will likely come from outside baseball, O’Conner said.

“Who we hire will be impressive, but also where we hire the person from will be impressive,” said O’Conner on Wednesday afternoon on the Trade Show floor at the Opryland Hotel. He said the first round of interviews is complete and he expects a hire to be made by early February. “This is not an easy job. I’m not opposed to it coming from within the (minor league baseball) family, but I also realize that person may not exist.”

O’Conner said the response to the new program has been positive, and discussions with various league and team executives over the course of the Winter Meetings has backed that up. The consensus seems to be that the time had come to promote the minor leagues as a whole, and not just the individual teams, and to take advantage of the minor leagues' reach into a variety of markets. O’Conner pointed out that minor league baseball, with 160 teams, plays in more midsize and smaller markets than any other professional sport and would provide access to people major advertisers have a tough time reaching.

“We have great penetration into the B, C and D markets,” O’Conner said.

The program officially began with O’Conner’s presentation at the opening session on Monday, and leaders said the effort likely won’t start generating money for two years. “We have planned for a two-year gestation period before we go to market,” O’Conner said. “We need to be sure we are prepared to go the marketplace . . . We have a great product and we want to make sure we are promoting it properly.”

Every minor league franchise will be included in the national marketing campaign, but teams are not required to pay the $15,000 investment fee. The teams that do are promised a three-to-one return on their investment as well as an annual residual return for as long as it is profitable, O’Conner said.