In a three-year deal worth more than £1 million, Frubes, Yoplait Dairy Crest’s popular children’s fromage frais brand, will become the first-ever title sponsor of Major League Baseball and BaseballSoftballUK’s schools and youth development programmes in the UK. The sponsorship, which will be supported by Sportsmatch, will create unprecedented exposure for baseball and softball in this country and lead to a marked increase in participation numbers for both sports. The sponsorship includes MLB’s multi-tiered Play Ball! programme aimed at primary school children, which will be renamed Play Ball! with Frubes, as well as BaseballSoftballUK’s 50-team Youth League structure in their entirety. Those will now be renamed Frubes Junior Baseball and Softball Leagues.

Programme Expansion

Now in its fourth year, the Play Ball! with Frubes programme will expand into five new regions giving a total of 25 areas nationwide thanks to its new sponsor. Bournemouth, Maidenhead, Paisley, Rotherham and Sunderland will all receive the Play Ball! with Frubes programme, which includes a comprehensive in-school delivered curriculum programme as well as a fully equipped four-team youth league. The programme’s finale event, the annual Play Ball! with Frubes World Series, will also extend from a single-day tournament to a two-day extravaganza making it one of the largest youth baseball/softball events in Europe. Since 1996, more than a quarter of a million girls and boys have participated in baseball and softball through these programmes.

Sportsmatch, a government organisation dedicated to the growth of grassroots sports in the United Kingdom, will aid the expansion. Sportsmatch, which acts as an incentive for corporate sponsors by offering to double the pot of money available for an organisation’s sponsorship, has committed its maximum grant for the Play Ball! with Frubes programme.

‘This is what Sportsmatch is all about – helping to attract a major sponsor, Yoplait, to invest in an extensive development programme for an up-and-coming sport,’ said Sportsmatch Director Mike Reynolds. ‘The sponsorship from Yoplait and Sportsmatch will make a real difference to the growth of baseball-softball in the UK.’

High-Profile Marketing Campaign

Frubes’ commitment to baseball and softball in the UK is long-term and comprehensive. It includes a fully integrated high profile marketing campaign which will create an unparalleled level of exposure and marketing support for the sports. Alongside a major on-pack promotion planned for the summer, supported by dedicated advertising on Cartoon Network, each box of Frubes will include, a Frubes ‘tube’ designed as a baseball player. Information on baseball and softball will also be included on the outer packaging of every box from early April, and with 70 million units of the product sold last year, that means a huge increase in awareness for the sports. Frubes will additionally be conducting a supporting PR campaign and will redesign the sides of its delivery lorries to feature the Play Ball! with Frubes joint logo.

‘Major League Baseball and BaseballSoftballUK have spent the last four years developing one of the strongest youth development programmes of any sport. This has now been reflected in the support of our new title sponsor, which was the logical next step for Play Ball! and MLB programming in the UK’, said Clive Russell, MLB Director for Europe, Middle East and Africa. ‘We are proud to have partnered with such a well-respected brand. We are confident that this partnership will raise overall awareness of baseball and softball and increase opportunities for children to play.’

The sponsorship was announced via video by two-time Major League All-Star Sean Casey. ‘It is great to hear that British kids are being given the opportunity to Play Ball! and I wish you every success in building the game of baseball in Great Britain,’ says the Cincinnati Reds first baseman. Multi-million pound Texas Rangers’ star, Alex Rodriguez, also delivered a message for British kids: ‘Have fun. Play Ball! with Frubes and Major League Baseball.’

The £12 million Frubes brand is owned by Yoplait Dairy Crest, which is the UK’s leading producer of children’s chilled yoghurts and desserts. ‘We believe Major League Baseball and BaseballSoftballUK’s schools-based programme is an excellent way to help establish positive attitudes towards, and participation in, sport at grassroots level,’ said Gerry Roads, Marketing Director for Yoplait Dairy Crest Limited. ‘We are delighted to offer our support to the Play Ball! and BaseballSoftballUK Youth League initiatives and hope that with the help of our involvement, they are able to meet their objective of building participation in baseball and softball amongst boys and girls within the UK.’

Play Ball! with Frubes is a comprehensive and integrated development programme created by Major League Baseball, in partnership with BaseballSoftballUK.. It aims to encourage strong community participation, establish long-term growth and maximise enjoyment for both boys and girls. The programme includes the Play Ball! with Frubes Schools Programme, introduced in 1996 as Pitch, Hit and Run, which now provides over 400 schools with teaching resources, curriculum materials and equipment packs, as well as the Play Ball! with Frubes Youth Leagues, which offer children the opportunity to participate outside of the school environment. Each league is provided with enough authentic MLB uniforms and equipment for a four-team youth league and a comprehensive support and recruitment programme. During the key recruitment period of May to June, the Play Ball! with Frubes Roadshow sweeps into town, and provides schools in the selected area with a high quality interactive introduction to baseball and softball. Run by expert US coaches and Great Britain national team players, the Roadshow combines state-of-the-art equipment with fun and informative presentations, and gives children the opportunity to learn and enjoy the game of baseball. The entire programme is further supported by MLB Envoy Coaches on summer placements, plus the Major League Baseball Coach-in-Residence.

The Play Ball! with Frubes programmes are also supported by their international partners, Franklin, Rawlings and Wilson (equipment suppliers), Majestic and New Era (apparel suppliers).

FOR MORE INFORMATION, contact Josh Chetwynd at Major League Baseball. T: 020 7453 7040. E-mail: josh.chetwynd@mlbi.co.uk.