Target enters into MLB sponsorship agreement

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It appears that Target is going to expand its baseball-related branding beyond Target Field this year.

The Star Tribune says the Minneapolis-based department store giant has become a sponsor of Major League Baseball. Target announced the sponsorship Monday. It is partly an education initiative with the publication People tied into Target Field hosting this year's MLB All-Star Game this summer.

“Major League Baseball’s wide-reaching partnership with Target will focus on the importance of education and teachers during a season where the All-Star Game will fittingly be hosted at Target Field,” Tim Brosnan, MLB executive vice president, Business said in a press release. “With Target’s dedication to education, it is a welcome addition to our outstanding relationship with PEOPLE in showcasing everyday All-Stars in our community.”

The company says it will celebrate "great teachers nationwide," and starting Monday through May 6, people can visit "to nominate an outstanding K-12 teacher from their community."

"Target, MLB and PEOPLE will select three teachers per MLB club for a total of 90 finalists that fans will vote on from June 5-29. The 30 winning 'All-Star Teachers' – one representing each MLB club – will be revealed on July 9, with a special tribute during the All-Star Game on July 15," the company says.

Target signed a 25-year deal with the Twins in 2008 for naming rights to the ballpark. Terms of the new sponsorship deal with MLB were not disclosed.

In addition to the MLB/education initiative, the sponsorship involves Target carrying an expanded selection of MLB and All-Star Game merchandise in its stores and online throughout the spring and summer.

Retail analyst Brian Kelly of Brian Brands in Chicago tells the Star Tribune that the sponsorship is unusual for Target, and is likely a way the company is trying to rebuild its reputation following its massive data breach in December.

“Baseball, for Target’s brand, is pretty unexpected,” Kelly told the paper. “It’s pretty middle-market for them, not a 'Tar-zhay' crazy fashion thing. But it’s probably what they need to do, because Middle America moms may be shy of going into Target stores after the credit card breach.”

A spokeswoman for Target, however, says the company’s relationship with the league has been in development since last October, the Star Tribune reports.

With the deal Target joins Chevrolet, Nike, Pepsi, Budweiser, Taco Bell, Bank of America, Gatorade, Procter & Gamble’s Head & Shoulders and T-Mobile as MLB nationwide sponsors.

According to Ad Age, MLB is close to signing one or two other new corporate sponsors in time for baseball's Opening Day on March 31.

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