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Over Easy: It’s Official, Marketing Can’t Be Stopped



For the Valley News
Friday, September 21, 2018

You’ve got to love marketing. No, really. We have no say in the matter — it’s everywhere.

Marketing’s immense reach came to mind recently when an alert editor shared the news that the Boston Red Sox have reached a deal with a New Hampshire company to provide the “Official Egg” of the Old Towne Team.

Official egg? Yes, indeed, a news release crowed that an “egg-cellent” partnership has been hatched. Methinks the copywriters were egging each other on.

As it happens, these are no ordinary eggs. They are “free range, certified humane.” They are also locally sourced, or close to it, coming from Nellie’s Free Range Eggs in Monroe, N.H. They will be served in all Fenway dishes employing eggs, whatever those might be.

In a promotional video, the “chief executive farmer” of Nellie’s said hens live the good life there and at other farms that furnish eggs to the brand. He said, “We believe they should be able to get out on the grass and scratch around and dust bathe in the dirt, and they should get able to get up on perches and socialize in the sunshine.”

Read that quote again, this time with ballplayers in mind.

Commercialism is nothing new to baseball. Old-time photos of Fenway Park reveal large, gaudy ads on the Green Monster for whiskey, soap and razor blades. Ted Williams said, “Drink Moxie” in print ads; Ted, Joe DiMaggio and Stan Musial all hawked Chesterfields, “the baseball man’s cigarette.”

But these days ads are just the start. It is not enough to plug beer; the top dog is official beer of the Boston Red Sox. Sam Adams holds this exalted title, previously held by Budweiser, which I had always associated with St. Louis and big horses.

Any emotional connection with these brands pales in comparison with my childhood memories regarding Narragansett Lager Beer, which was closely linked with the Sox. Its cheery motto, “Hi-Neighbor. Have a ’Gansett” still remains fresh to me, especially so because I grew up in Cranston, R.I., home of the brewery.

I didn’t think Narragansett produced the best-tasting brew then, but there is a scientific principle that holds that all beers are pretty much equal after three or four. If nothing else, ’Gansett would make a very satisfactory official beer of the second game of a doubleheader.

In contemporary times, the natural associations among things like beer, shaving gear and the national pastime has expanded to include widely varied enterprises. Red Sox TV and radio broadcasts today heavily tout an insurance company and an outfit named Window World. There is nothing as American as baseball, hot dogs, risk avoidance and replacement windows.

Through the years the Sox have had an official distributor of “plumbing, heating, HVAC, pipe-valves-fittings supplies,” an official sandwich and an official lighting distributor. A 2006 Boston Globe story claimed the team was “hunting high and low for an official document storage company ... an official timekeeping device and an official home security provider.”

I’m not sure how that all worked out, quite honestly. After the era of Narragansett beer, which lost its allure after a couple of unfortunate sessions during my younger years, I have been an uncommitted consumer, a free agent of sorts. When I crave pipes, valves or fitting supplies, I hardly think of the Red Sox.

During games, when announcers say that a “call to the bullpen” is sponsored by some company or other, my heart hardens when a pitcher has flopped. But perhaps “This gut-wrenching call to the bullpen is brought to you by Maalox’’ might work for me.

It’s clear that natural partnerships have potential. Vermont and New Hampshire have many possibilities, well beyond maple syrup, mountains and snow. To be the official highway sand provider to the state of Vermont would be a glorious thing. To be the official stump grinding service provider to the state of New Hampshire would take awareness to another level. It would be a golden age of stump grinding, really.

At Fenway, the reign of the official egg will begin in the 2019 season. Promoting cage-free and humane eggs is laudable, and likely just a first step into new products and sensibilities. Can the official egg substitute, official tofu hot dog or official gluten-free beer be far behind?

Brands would scramble to become the official probiotic, fitness band or instant pot of the Red Sox. And bring on the official laser eye care clinic (discounts for veterans, active military and visiting umpires.)

Oh, well. Time marches on, and so does marketing, which loudly beats the drum in time’s irresistible marching band.

Dan Mackie lives in West Lebanon. He can be reached at dan.mackie@yahoo.com.