When you think of Sunbeam Bread, baseball is not the first thing that comes to mind. But believe it or not, Sunbeam Bread was an integral part in helping to promote America’s favorite pastime in its early days. With baseball season on a hiatus in light of the pandemic, it seems like the perfect time to think back and reminisce of the old days. We are all missing the excitement of the ballpark!
In 1949, Globe Printing from San Jose, CA began a marketing relationship with minor league baseball. Globe produced a yearbook, titled “Your California League” with pages devoted to team and player photos in the approximate size and format that collectors now associate with the baseball card. These cards featured full-length poses with the player name in a white strip at bottom. Globe's first baseball card set was produced for the Stockton Ports team.
In an unusual promotional partnership, these baseball cards were sponsored by Sunbeam Bread. A number of similarly formatted card sets were issued for teams in that era, including the Sunbeam-sponsored card sets of the 1946-1947 Sacramento Solons. On one side of the card was player biographical data. On the back was an advertisement for Sunbeam.
These souvenir items were distributed as giveaways at games or events. The benefits were two-fold — minor league teams gained much-needed exposure while Sunbeam advertised that they were “the bread that broadcasts baseball.”
As the popularity of the baseball cards grew, other companies such as Fleer and Topps took notice and developed their own marketing relationship with Sunbeam Bread. Promotional items expanded to pennants, stickers, stand-up cards, cloth patches and more. Throughout the 1970s, Sunbeam also partnered with the NFL to include football cards in specially-marked loaves of bread.
By today’s standards, cross-promotional items between companies are commonplace (think Happy Meal and Disney toys!) But Sunbeam Bread was at the forefront of this innovative advertising tactic and helped make it a household name.
And to our baseball players (and fans!) everywhere, from T-ball and Little League to the pros — wishing good thoughts of getting back out on the field soon. From all of us at Sunbeam Bread!