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CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox will be starting games at U.S. Cellular Field at 7:11 p.m. on the dot for the next three seasons, to recognize their sponsor, 7-Eleven, The New York Times reported.
Say goodbye to nearly fifty 7:05 and 7:35 p.m. games. 7-Eleven will be paying the team an average of $500,000 a year to start the games at that time.
"It's a fun way to insert our name into fans' hearts and minds," Margaret Chabris, a 7-Eleven spokeswoman told the Times. "We think it's worth way more than $500,000." She added that 7-Eleven is in talks with other baseball teams about sponsorship deals that would include starting games at 7:11.
The time change was not part of the original plan when the team and the convenience giant were discussing the details of the sponsorship. 7-Eleven wanted a new concept in the more traditional sponsorship, which included 25,000 giveaway coupons at every game, which could strain the Slurpee-making capacity of the 185 local 7-Eleven stores.
When the company recently bought the 202-store White Hen chain, 7-Eleven wanted to increase its presence in a place it considers a growth market. "It made sense to sponsor the White Sox," Chabris told the Times.
The idea to change the starting time came from Ryan Gribble, the team's manager of corporate partnerships. While contemplating the numerals seven and 11 and the ways they could be used during the game, he came to the idea of changing start times.
"Most of our night games started at 7:05, but the first pitch was really at 7:07 or 7:09," Gribble said. Two minutes later did not seem hard to accommodate.
Gribble and Brooks Boyer, the team's vice president of marketing, posed the idea to Jerry Reinsdorf, the team's controlling owner.
"We said, 'What would you think of moving the game times to 7:11?' and he laughed," Boyer told the paper. "Then he said, 'I get it and now it's a matter of figuring out the deal with 7-Eleven.' Two hours later, Ryan had the deal." The creative idea landed an additional $500,000 per year to the deal with 7-Eleven.
Radio and TV stations were informed of the change, and 7-Eleven will buy more air time to promote the leap forward on Monday to Thursday games from 7:05 to 7:11 and the leap back on Fridays from 7:35 to 7:11.
Many factors went into the calculation of additional cost to change the game time, including the value of the exposure that 7-Eleven would receive in the media, on the L.E.D. boards and scoreboards inside the field and from public address announcements.