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For Michigan Political Ads, The Tigers Are The Big Game In Town

Detroit Tigers Victor Martinez (left) and Torii Hunter celebrate Martinez's two-run home run against the Minnesota Twins on Thursday.
Detroit Tigers Victor Martinez (left) and Torii Hunter celebrate Martinez's two-run home run against the Minnesota Twins on Thursday.

We're in the final weekend of the regular baseball season and there are still pennant races and wild-card matchups to be set.

Along with sports fans, political consultants are watching as well, and they are keeping an especially close eye on the Detroit Tigers. A fine team, sure, but also one uniquely suited to fill the needs of the people who buy TV time for political campaigns.

All over the country, advertisers love to buy sports spots for the big audiences that are enthusiastic and engaged. And with a live telecast, you can't fast-forward through the ads.

During Tigers games there are lots of TV ads for trucks, cars, local banks, personal injury lawyers and pizza. All of these advertisers like a big, broad audience that tunes in to baseball, just like in lots of other cities. But there are reasons why the Detroit Tigers hold a special place in the hearts of media buyers for political campaigns.

For starters, you get Michigan, where almost the entire state cheers for this one team. Additionally, there's not a lot of bleed-over into neighboring states, meaning you're not paying for viewers who aren't Michigan voters.

It's not like the Red Sox, where loyalties are spread out across all of New England. And it's not like, say, Pennsylvania, where Pirates fans hate the Phillies and vice versa.

The fact that the Tigers have been quite good for nearly a decade makes for an especially loyal fan base, which includes the usual male sports fans, but also a very strong showing among women.

This all leads to a lot of classic political attack ads playing during Tigers games. Janet Katowitz, president of a media buying firm in Washington who has represented many Democratic candidates in Michigan over the years, says it's almost like a trip to an earlier era of TV viewing before streaming, tablets and multitasking.

"It's a real throwback where there's one type of show, one program, where you can find just about everyone and pretty consistently you can find this audience and it really holds up," Katowitz says.

Katowitz says it's like a hit TV show with 162 episodes, plus playoffs. "It's classic storytelling with heroes and villains, and this is your hometown team," she says.

Robert Kolt spent a career as a media consultant and now teaches at Michigan State University. He says sports deliver the potential for something you get in few other places.

"If it's a tight game ... and you've placed your ad at the bottom of the ninth and it's really neck-and-neck, that is just jackpot," Kolt says.

Of course, your ad might also run in a game that is a blowout and everyone has gone to bed. Or worse, the Tigers bullpen blows a lead and you get a really cranky audience.

Even with that risk, this Tigers team is already seen as a champion by all of those political ad buyers.

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