Major League Baseball plans to celebrate if Barry Bonds passes Hank Aaron as the all-time home run kind. MLB's sponsors, however, have a different idea.
According to Bloomberg News, one of baseball's 18 national sponsors, Bank of America Corp., said Tuesday that because of steroid allegations, it will not take part in any campaign celebrating Bonds.
"We are a company where confidence and trust is held high," Cathy Bessant, Bank of America's global marketing executive, told Bloomberg News. "A company like ours is always going to choose the untainted opportunity. There is no reason to stand up for controversy."
Echoing those sentiments, Home Depot said it will not be part of a celebration unless an investigation shows Bonds did not use performance-enhancing substances. However, PepsiCo Inc. would recognize Bonds in a "muted way," according to PepsioCo North America president Dawn Hudson.
Bank of America signed a five-year sponsorship deal with MLB in 2004 after previously sponsoring several individual teams.
"We are longtime partners of baseball, and with their perception on drugs, I could stand on the roof and scream that this issue has to get resolved," Bessant told Bloomberg News. "Baseball has got to get the perception of drugs out of the spot. It matters. Cheating matters. It isn't OK to cork a bat. Cheaters shouldn't prosper."
Bonds is only seven home runs away from moving into second place on the home run list. He currently stands at 708 home runs compared to Babe Ruth's 714.
Tim Brosnan, executive vice president of business for MLB, said Tuesday that the league would formally celebrates Bonds' achievement in some way.
"There will likely be ads, either national or local, and that will be determined in the days coming up," Brosnan said. "We are basically going to be consistent with the policy we've been following for the last 10 years against many of the milestones that have been achieved in baseball."
Brosnan hinted that baseball would likely do little to commemorate Bonds' passing of Ruth.
"The big record is 755," Brosnan said. "That's where we bring in partners and create national marketing campaigns and celebrations."
A poll of 155 sports business executives at the Street & Smith's World Congress of Sports conference in New York City revealed that 45 percent would have a "very muted congratulations of Bonds." Twenty-nine percent would not have any celebration, while 26 percent said it would be appropriate to have a full celebration.
The Giants are expected to celebrate the 715th home run, and Bonds' marketing agent Jeff Bernstein told ESPN.com that there will be plenty of merchandise surrounding the moment.
Bernstein said plans are well under way for commemorative T-shirts, hats, coins and lapel pins. He also said that McFarlane Toys will be making a special boxed set featuring figurines of both Bonds and Ruth.
Topps, which is the only card company that has the rights to use Bonds, will make a card set featuring Bonds' home runs from Nos. 700 to 715.
Bernstein said Bonds will also sell limited-edition commemorative items on his Web site.
Brosnan said that he believes that Major League Baseball will take some action into looking into Bonds' past, as has been rumored.
"Perhaps not along the lines of an investigation because law enforcement was, and still is, involved," Brosnan said. "Like everyone else, we have to be careful when that happens."
Brosnan did say that he believes that a fact-finding mission will make it easier for potential sponsors to join in a celebration should Bonds hit more than 47 home runs and break the long ball record.
Said Brosnan: "When we would have our discussions with our partners, we would present them with the facts when we ask them to consider the kind of commitment we are asking them to make."
Information from ESPN.com's Darren Rovell was used in this report.