Commentary

Marketing Synergy

Baseball-Reference.Com page sponsorship often makes perfect sense, as in the case of Matt Holliday.

Updated: April 15, 2009, 12:47 PM ET
By Cameron Martin | Special to ESPN The Magazine

Getty Images"MLB Trade Rumors? What the?"

Athletics outfielder Matt Holliday will be a free agent next season. Where will he end up? In a hitter-friendly park like Coors Field, where he hit .357 and slugged .645 over the first five years of his career? Or in a relatively hitter-neutral venue like Dodger Stadium, where (in 35 career games) he's hit .259 with a .415 slugging percentage?

Rumors abound, and interest in Holliday—in particular, his home-road splits—will continue to grow as the July 31 trade deadline approaches. Hoping to capitalize on this interest, the Web site MLBTradeRumors.com is sponsoring Holliday's stats page at Baseball-Reference.com.

"Scott Boras will get a monster free agent contract for Holliday. Will it be the Yankees? Mets? Red Sox? MLB Trade Rumors has it covered," the ad reads.

For a Web site, it's a perfect synthesis of interest and marketing, because everyone from fantasy owners to big league general managers could find their way to Holliday's B-R stats page in the next few months. And with one more click, they could find their way to MLBTradeRumors.com.

"The Trade Rumors and Matt Holliday, that's very appropriate," says John Kreese, who runs the Yankees blog NoMaas.org. "For baseball Web sites, it's not like it's going to be the silver bullet in regards to generating traffic to your site, but I think it definitely helps when you selectively target certain players (for sponsorship at Baseball-Reference.com)."

Kreese, 31, began NoMaas in 2005, out of frustration with the Yankees' front office maneuvers. (The name refers to both Kevin Maas, the former all-or-nothing Yankees slugger, and Roberto Duran's infamous submission to Sugar Ray Leonard.)

NoMaas sponsors several Yankee pages on B-R.com, including CC Sabathia and Nick Swisher. Kreese says he paid around $400 for the one-year rights to these pages, both of which have the advertisement, "If we had $200 million to burn, the Yankees would never lose a game."

Critical of the Yankees, but not blistering. NoMaas saves their true venom for the Red Sox pages they own.

Within reason, Baseball-Reference.com allows sponsors to write whatever they want on the pages they control. Are you a disgruntled A's fan who can't stand Eric Chavez's propensity to swing at high fast balls? Then maybe you're the anonymous sponsor who wrote, "Death, taxes and Chavy flailing at high cheese. Some things never change. Chavy in the 2001 playoffs: whiffing on face-high fastballs. Chavy in the 2006 playoffs: whiffing on face-high fastballs. Chavy, when are you gonna learn that you're not supposed to swing at that??? For cryin out loud."

Phillies and Mets fans love to squat on the other team's player players. Take, for instance, Mets fan and freelance photographer Terence Watkins, who sponsors Chase Utley's page. His ad reads, "Let's Go Mets! Let's Go Mets! Let's Go Mets! Phillies will fall a bit short in 2008!" (Terrence might want to update that message.)

Leigh Tobin, media relations spokesman for the Phillies, said he was fairly certain that Utley never visits his Baseball-Reference page. Curt Schilling, however, almost certainly visits his page, says John Kreese, and that's why NoMaas has sponsored the former Red Sox pitcher's page for the last few years.

The current message: "Curt Schilling: 38 pitches and 42 hot dogs."

Kreese explains: "One of the running jokes on NoMaas since we started is to make fun of Schilling's lack of physical stature. Ya know, that he's a bit of a blob. So ya know 38 Pitches is obviously his blog and then we put the 42 hot dogs."

The number 42 was chosen randomly, he says, and doesn't refer to Schilling's age.

"What we like about Schilling's (page) especially is you know he reads it. I don't know if (Josh) Beckett knows how to use a computer, or if other players go to their B-R pages, but you know that Schilling has definitely been to his Baseball-Reference page. I'm sure especially when his Hall of Fame comes up, I'm sure he'll be all over that site. And I'm sure they'll be a lot of people going to the Schilling page. I'm sure there's already been an increase of people going to that site with the Hall of Fame debate."

Schilling, via email, said he didn't care to discuss the matter. And not surprisingly, no one in the Red Sox media relations department would comment about Josh Beckett's page, either. It currently reads, "Josh Beckett: More blisters than Ron Mexico."

If you're familiar with Michael Vick's infamous (alleged) past, you probably get the joke. If not, well, you're not allowed to be explicitly vulgar or pornographic with your advertisements on Baseball-Reference.com, so we'll follow that lead here.

Kreese says Baseball-Reference.com does not provide sponsors with specific page view information, so he's not sure how much traffic has been sent to NoMaas from the ads at Baseball-Reference. But he thinks it's considerable, as many Red Sox fans have sent him hate letters.

Sponsorship rates vary from player to player, depending on his popularity. (You can also sponsor managers and teams.) Guidelines posted online say sponsorship rates range from $2 per year for obscure players to several hundred dollars for current greats like Alex Rodriguez and Hall of Famers like Sandy Koufax.

The site reads, "The prices are roughly set to match an advertising rate of $1.25 per 1,000 page views with a minimum charge of $5. Over 14,000 of the total 18,000 pages are at $5 with another 3,500 at $10. From there it goes up to more than $300/year (or more) for Barry Bonds. I feel getting your name on Sandy Koufax's page should be reserved for the largest sponsors."

Meanwhile, Curt Schilling gets NoMaas.