Holiday Inn Strikes Deal With Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr.

Holiday Inn Hotels and Resorts, in its second year as "Official Hotel of Major League Baseball," has signed Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr., to appear in a new slate of ads set to run during MLB games this season.

The effort, part of the hotel chain's humorous "Look Again" campaign, has Ripken riffing with other Holiday Inn guests. Last year, InterContinental Hotel Group's Holiday Inn launched its relationship with MLB with ads featuring Fox announcer Joe Buck. Holiday Inn also uses NASCAR drivers Jeff Burton and Scott Wimmer in ads.

Ripken will be featured in TV, print and online advertisements, and promotions during the season to support the campaign that targets Gen-X-to-Baby Boomer business travelers. Ads tout free high-speed Internet, in-room work spaces, full-service meeting facilities and Priority Club Rewards.

Two TV spots featuring three humorous business types who meet Ripken at a Holiday Inn will air on ESPN starting Monday, when the regular season begins, and on Turner Broadcasting on July 6.

As part of the partnership, Holiday Inn guests will receive free access to MLB.com GameDay Audio through Holiday Inn's Internet service--while Priority Club Rewards members who stay at a Holiday Inn hotel in North America get baseball cards, one of which features Cal Ripken, Jr., and a baseball card with a promotional code, which recipients can enter at holidayinn.com/baseball.

John Brody, MLB Senior Vice President/corporate sales and marketing, says the association with Holiday Inn--which reflects a broad deal the league inked with InterContinental last year--reflects a renaissance over the past four years, with national partners increasing in line with audiences. He said MLB has doubled its roster of official national partners since 2003. Today, Anheuser-Busch, Bank of America, Frito-Lay, GM's Chevrolet Division, and XM Satellite Radio are among the 20 MLB partners enjoying category-exclusive national advertising and promotional arrangements with the league.

"In the corporate sales and marketing side, it has just exploded over the course of the last four or five years," he says. "It's a $400 million business now, and that's due to significant increase in popularity of the sport."

According to MLB statistics, the past three years have set attendance records, and about 60% of Americans consider themselves fans of MLB. According to Nielsen Media Research, regular season average household viewership grew by 11% in 2006 over the previous year, with the average audience of 1.04 million homes the highest since 2002. Household audience for ESPN broadcasts of MLB is up 24.3% versus last year.

Holiday Inn says MLB ballpark attendees comprise approximately one-quarter of Holiday Inn guests and account for more traffic to Holiday Inn hotels than fans of any other sport.

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