November 3, 2017 12:45 PM, EDT

Old Dominion Takes Big Swing With MLB Deal

Old Dominion Freight Line

When Old Dominion Freight Line Inc. landed an advertising and marketing contract with Major League Baseball earlier this year, it was part of a long-term strategy to grow its business, representatives of the Thomasville, N.C.,-based trucking and logistics company said.

Old Dominion ranks No. 11 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest North American for-hire carriers.

The MLB logo eventually will adorn Old Dominion’s entire fleet of 32,000 tractor-trailers, marking it as the official freight carrier for the league.

RELATED: Old Dominion to be official freight carrier for Major League Baseball

“In terms of the growth of Major League Baseball now — there’s all kinds of debates over are they growing or not growing — they’re doing quite well,” said David Carter, vice president of marketing and communications for Old Dominion. “They’re attracting a younger audience, which is great, and certainly the World Series helps a great deal.”

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The company started looking at sports marketing opportunities several years ago as a way to elevate its brand, Carter said.

They knew a lot of their target audience had high interest in football, but the expense would be considerable for a relatively short season.

“Baseball’s right behind it, in terms of interest, and baseball’s a good long season,” he said.

Old Dominion initially inked promotional and advertising deals with individual franchises. Carter said he “kept looking to see if we want to add teams and do something bigger. I had been talking to MLB for awhile and looking at how we could get involved in a league-wide basis.”

The full deal brought the company advertising opportunities on TV and online, as well as exposure at the All-Star Game and World Series.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“It’s really a great partnership, because No. 1, it elevates and expands our brand comprehension,” Carter said. “No. 2 is the cultural alignment with MLB, in that we’re an all-American company and they’re an all-American sport, America’s pastime.”

Old Dominion uses the MLB logo on its trucks and in its advertisements.

The company has about 19,000 total employees, including around 1,800 in the Triad region of North Carolina. It’s grown rapidly throughout the country, opening service centers that manage its freight network.

“You can’t necessarily run an ad and then, bang, you got sales the next day. It doesn’t work that way,” Carter said. “There’s pricing, there’s contractual ranges, all kinds of stuff before we ever see a load of freight. Like any brand, you’ve got to build it over time, and it takes discipline to do that. And you’ve got to surround the customer with a message that’s relevant to them.”

Old Dominion customized a trailer with a see-through design that it filled with baseballs and took to ballparks throughout the summer.

The “billboard on wheels,” as Carter called it, was used in a promotion where it gave away World Series tickets to the fan who made the most accurate guess as to how many baseballs could fit inside.

More than 51,000 people ventured a guess and Nicholas Haas of Roanoke, Texas, won with a guess of 178,596 baseballs.

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