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BLOOMINGTON - Continuing a blitz of sport-related advertising deals, State Farm Insurance Cos. became the official insurer of Major League Baseball and title sponsor of the Home Run Derby during All-Star Week, the two parties announced Friday.

Financial terms of the deal weren't released.

The Home Run Derby, broadcast at 7 p.m. July 9 on ESPN from San Francisco's AT&T Park, is the sport net-work's highest-rated summer event, according to a press release issued by MLB.

In addition the derby sponsorship, State Farm logos will appear in the World Series, the All-Star Game and other games.

"Baseball is a natural fit for us. The season runs from April through October. That's a key business period for us … because people are out buying cars," said Mark Gibson, State Farm assistant vice president of advertising.

State Farm has boosted advertising efforts this year, particularly within the sports arena, as the company battles increased competition with companies like Geico and Progressive Corp.

Asked if legal battles and public-relations issues stemming from Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast have per-suaded State Farm to boost advertising, Gibson said marketing strategy is driven by the company's need to reach customers.

In a written statement, Tim Brosnan, MLB executive vice president of business, said, "we are very pleased to partner with such a well-respected brand as State Farm and welcome them as the title sponsor of the Home Run Derby.

State Farm spent $270.4 million on advertising in 2006, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

State Farm Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ed Rust previously said ad spending would increase this year but wouldn't say how much. Gibson wouldn't discuss ad spending or whether the company has boosted ad efforts.

On the sports front, the insurer has signed deals recently with NASCAR, the National Football League, and NCAA basketball.

Gibson said athletics is just one of State Farm's marketing strategies but it does provide high exposure.

In addition to the MLB deal, State Farm has separate deals with 24 Major League teams, including the Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Deals with MLB ball clubs have offered big bonuses in the past.

In the film "The Break-Up," starring Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn, the State Farm logo appears twice on a sign behind home plate while Vaughn is at a Major League Baseball game. The ad happened to be there while camera crews were filming.

During the Home Run Derby, State Farm and the MLB will donate a combined $17,000 to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America for each home run a participant hits after reaching his ninth of ten outs. The figure represents State Farm's 17,000 agents in the U.S. and Canada.


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