Not too long ago, we asked the question, “Was Matsuzaka worth it?” And we concluded that he wasn’t. At least, not last season. But we remained optimistic that, in coming seasons, Matsuzaka would yet live up to his expensive contract.

Of course, that was taking for granted that Matsuzaka was as valuable a marketing tool as he was a strikeout machine. Scott Boras sold the Red Sox on Matsuzaka’s ability to bring in big bucks from Japan. And the Sox sold us on that theory.

But now comes word from the Boston Herald’s Rob Bradford that Matsuzaka wasn’t the marketing dynamo that we were led to believe.

Sam Kennedy, the Red Sox senior vice president of sales and marketing, told Bradford that the Matsuzaka signing wasn’t as profitable as the Sox imagined it would be:

“The Japanese advertising market has been softer than we thought, especially considering we have two Japanese pitchers.”

Softer? How soft?

While most estimates have Seattle and the Yankees garnering between $3-6 million annually because of the presence of Japanese outfielders Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui, respectively, the Red Sox’ final tally came up well short.

Funai Electronics proved to be the sole sponsorship gained because of Dice-K, netting the Red Sox an annual contract of approximately $900,000.

How come so soft?

“There was absolutely not this windfall of corporate advertising dollars we thought there may be, or that (Matsuzaka’s) representative might have led you to believe during the negotiations,” Kennedy said.

Wait? Scott Boras lied? Impossible!

But I don’t get it? Why weren’t the Japanese as excited about Matsuzaka playing in the US as they were about Ichiro, or Matsui?

Part of that was due to the advertisements in Fenway Park [map] not being as relevant in Matsuzaka’s case as they might be for an outfielder. Matsui, for instance, can potentially stand in front of a Japanese advertisement in the outfield for 162 games while the Sox pitcher is limited to one appearance every five days.

“We can’t put a sign on the pitcher’s mound,” Kennedy said.

Or could we? Mwa ha ha!

6 Responses to “Is Matsuzaka still worth it?”

  1. Hi, there’s no question that Matsuzaka is HUGE in Japan. He’s second after Ichiro – and definitely ahead of Matsui.

    But, as that article correctly points out, he only comes out once in five games, which hurts his marketing potential.

  2. sam kennedy needs to get his goldbrickin\’ ass in gear. one game of a pitcher on the mound, with the home plate green-screen advertisement in view for 10 minutes or more an inning, is susbstantially more visibility than an everyday right fielder receives. at least X5 more impressions.

  3. World Series rings do wonders for attracting advertising dollars.

    Also, what about the Dunkin Dugout? I find it hard to believe they kept their contract the same, what with the temporary kanji advertising.

    Finally, merchandising anyone?

  4. Biff Scooter says:

    I lived in Japan for decades and another problem is Matsuzaka is not an upper echelon star a la even Nomo as far as pitchers go. Nomo got a tremendous amount of endorsements but Matsuzaka many years was not even the #1 pitcher when Seibu won their titles in Japan’s Pacific league.

    Plus add to the fact he’s not all that charismatic and the main thing I recall from his off-field life in Japan was some drunk driving car accident he got in. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for Japanese who have incredibly strict drunk driving laws (no freakin’ points on your license there…you lose your license period for a year, I believe).

  5. I’m not sure I entirely agree, Biff. I live in Japan too, and I can say that Matsuzaka is a pretty huge star over here. I mean, he even has his own generation named after him (the “Matsuzaka generation”). And he does have a pretty decent number of endorsements, as far as I can see from watching Japanese TV.

    But I think what is at issue here is not how many personal endorsement contracts Matsuzaka can pull down, which is plenty, but how many endorsement contracts will get signed directly with the Red Sox organization, for putting signs on the oufield wall in Fenway and such, and those kinds of endorsements have not been as forthcoming.

  6. Winning a World Series game is worth $100 million. But it would be fun if the Sox sued Boras to recoup earnings against projections.

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