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Managing Partner John Martin

The Fort Myers Mighty Mussels have opened their minor league baseball season at Hammond Stadium with a litany of promotions, but bringing in celebrities like Carol Baskin from Netflix’s Tiger King documentary fame, putting on postgame fireworks and paying musicians for postgame concerts doesn’t come cheap. 

That’s why new team owner John Martin, a career farmer in central Illinois, reached out to an agricultural and turf company for a sponsorship opportunity both parties hope to be mutually beneficial. Brandt, a family-owned, global company, is paying an undisclosed amount to be the presenting sponsor of the minor league affiliate of the Minnesota Twins.  

It’s the first sponsorship of a big-league affiliate, said Karl Barnhart, chief marketing officer for Brandt, which also sponsors NASCAR drivers Justin Allgaier of Illinois and Miguel Paludo of Brazil, where Brandt has a sizeable presence. The sponsorships allow the Mighty Mussels to keep ticket prices lower—from $10 to $12—which helps build attendance, which helps bring in more fans who can be exposed to the sponsors.  

“We’ve been looking for innovative ways to build our brand for a number of years,” Barnhart said. “The traditional ad space of local sponsorships, local media, B2B trade shows and publications—that’s typically the way that (agriculture) brands build a reputation. We’ve taken a little bit different approach. We’ve sponsored NASCAR for a number of years. They get noticed a little more.”  

The CenturyLink naming rights sponsorship of what is now back to being called the Lee County Sports Complex with the Minnesota Twins, expired at the end of 2021. Those often cost even more than presenting sponsorship status and can be in the $250,000 range, industry analysts said. The Twins are shopping for a new naming rights sponsor and Brandt could be a future candidate.  

“Let’s see where it goes,” Barnhart said of the new agreement with the Mighty Mussels. “We want to see how this sponsorship performs for us and what the reaction is.”  

Martin’s ties to farming, and Brandt’s desire to showcase its brand of fertilizer to a ballpark, made for a natural fit, Martin said. Brandt also sponsors the Rose Bowl, where its products are used every year.  

“They are expanding not only into agriculture, but also into turf management,” Martin said. “They have a huge, research development manufacturing arm. What I love about them is they are active not only in agriculture, not only in turf management but also racing. There’s just all of these synergies between us and Brandt. The fact that they’re family owned makes them a wonderful partner. They are actively trying to expand in the Florida market. 

“You’ll see a lot of their signage in the ballpark. What they get out of it is a very interesting and unique way to expand into this market. As you know there are golf courses and landscaping opportunities on every corner down here it feels like.”  

The sponsorship revenue allows the Mighty Mussels to spend bigger on luring entertainers and celebrities to enhance the fan experience. Baskin will be at the ballpark Friday, Brian Baumgartner, who played Kevin in The Office, will be at the game April 29, and actor Jon Gries, who played Uncle Rico in the 2004 movie Napoleon Dynamite, will be on hand June 3. Joe Nichols and Parmelee will perform a concert as part of the May 14 game.  

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