No one would have blamed MassMutual for waiting one more year. This is a company that only just clawed its way back into the first division of the Fortune 500, finishing the 2022 season at #100. This is a company that suffered significant hardship in 2020, when, for some reason, a number of life insurers were suddenly forced to actually provide the product their consumers had purchased. This is a company that is only now retooling its roster following the Great Resignation, stockpiling a number of promising but totally unproven insurance adjusters, HR managers, and compliance officers. In short, pop into any afterwork bar in Hartford, Connecticut or Des Moines, Iowa, and most people you talk to would probably say that MassMutual isn’t quite ready to contend.
But MassMutual CEO Roger W. Crandall is not most people.
On Monday, MassMutual signed the Boston Red Sox Jersey Sleeve Advertising Space to a whopping 10-year, $170 million deal, with incentives that could see the total value of the contract rise to over $200 million. This isn’t how a modern insurance company is supposed to operate. The smart move, they say, is to intentionally produce an inferior product for two-to-three years, count on your emotionally addicted consumers to keep giving you money anyway, and then wait for the risk-free mechanisms imposed by your industry-wide cartel to improve your performance without forcing you to expend any of your own capital. But this signing isn’t just about improving performance. It’s about sending a message. Mass Mutual is back.
Of course, signing the Boston Red Sox Jersey Sleeve Advertising Space is not without risks. The Space has displayed concerning inconsistency in recent seasons. It’s changed colors. It’s finished in last place. It’s been seen on a Pablo Sandoval.
And then there’s the length of the deal. Ten years is a long time and there’s no telling what the Space will look like in 2032. It could be longer, it could be shorter, it could be made of leather!
But this is what it means to compete. This is what it means to commit to excellence.
Afterall, old-timers will remember when an upstart medical supplies company named Covidien signed the Green Monster Advertising Space to a seven-figure deal in 2007. The consensus back then was that they were a year or two away from competing, too. But in retrospect, the deal helped turn Covidien into an industry champion, one capable of purchasing a rival company for the sole purpose of preventing it from bringing cheap, portable ventilators to market. That seems like it was a good deal for everyone involved, and one that probably didn’t lead to any kind of global catastrophe. MassMutual is betting that it just signed another one.