7-Eleven Hits Home Run With Novel Baseball 'Time-In'

Dallas-based convenience store chain 7-Eleven is looking for additional takers on a novel deal struck with the Chicago White Sox: Beginning next year, all evening weekday games at U.S. Cellular Field will start at 7:11 p.m.

The three-year deal, which includes between 40 and 50 home games per season, also provides for in-stadium signage, and the distribution of 7-Eleven coupons and promotional materials as fans come through the gates.

In addition to broadcast announcers mentioning the start time, 7-Eleven will also promote the 7:11 hook, which represents a change from 7:05 for Monday to Thursday games, and from 7:35 on Fridays.

"Our research shows that our core customers love sports and movies, and we want to reach them when they're having fun," says Margaret Chabris, a 7-Eleven spokeswoman. Negotiations are underway for different venues in other markets with a high concentration of 7-Elevens, she says, and the company last month announced a tie-in with a Texas racetrack for NASCAR races.



Both Chabris and a White Sox spokesman declined to say how much the deal is costing 7-Eleven, but Chabris said published reports of $500,000 per season were "overinflated."

"It's a brilliant idea," says Matthew Lalin, executive vice president of Steiner Sports Marketing, a New Rochelle, N.Y.-based company that represents such athletes as Giant Tiki Barber and Yankee Derek Jeter, and corporate clients that include Anheuser-Busch and Foot Locker.

"Retailers are looking to align themselves with teams that are stable and have longevity," he says. "If a retailer can match the kinds of people who are walking into the stadium with the kind of people they want walking into their stores, these deals can be a home run."

7-Eleven and baseball may even turn out to be a grand slam: After all, 7-Eleven is the only retailer that can claim to sell the most copies of Sports Illustrated, cold beer, Gatorade, and fresh-grilled hot dogs.

But Sox fans will have to wait. The opening game is tentatively scheduled for April 2, said the White Sox spokesman, and is typically a day game.

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