Major League Baseball has announced a new addition to its marketing lineup, handing a batting helmet to Yum! Brands' (NYSE:YUM) Taco Bell with instructions to swing for the fences. The agreement makes Taco Bell the "Official Quick-Service Restaurant" of Major League Baseball, an affiliation that will run through the end of the 2006 season.

The deal, which is reportedly worth an estimated $25 million, will grant Taco Bell exclusive category rights, signage, and plenty of airtime during baseball's two marquee events: the All-Star Game and the World Series. Some had predicted McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) would earn the title, but the scales were tipped in Taco Bell's favor by their choice of beverage vendors. Over 35 million weekly patrons wash down their tacos and burritos with Pepsico (NYSE:PEP) -- a longtime MLB sponsor -- where McDonald's serves Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO).

With All-Star festivities less than a month away, Taco Bell won't be sitting on the bench for long. The diamond anniversary of the Midsummer Classic, the highest-rated sporting event of the summer, will take place July 13 in Houston's Minute Maid Park. The contest's participants are largely determined by fan selection, and in-stadium balloting sponsored by Ameriquest Mortgage has drawn record response. When combined with online voting and balloting through Pepsi displays at Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) stores nationwide, a record 65 million votes have already been cast.

The Taco Bell name should be quite visible during other events surrounding the hoopla of the big game, including the Cendant (NYSE:CD) Century 21 Home Run Derby and the Manulife Financial (NYSE:MFC) John Hancock All-Star Fanfest, an interactive baseball-themed collection of exhibits and attractions expected to draw over 100,000 fans.

Though sports-related sponsorships can be risky propositions, this one appears to be a winner for Taco Bell. It has bought into the timeless popularity of baseball, as close to a sure thing as can be found in the business world. The franchise name will be a prominent fixture in the sport's highest-profile events, as well as other national broadcasts on Fox and ESPN.

Fan-oriented promotions are much more engaging than stadium naming rights, which don't seem to resonate very well. Sometimes the corporate logo is an unwelcome intrusion on hallowed ground and, let's be honest, XYZ Telecommunications Field doesn't exactly have the same ring as Fenway Park. Taco Bell has a unique opportunity to generate enthusiasm for its products, as well as the game. If it can think of a creative way to get fans more involved, both the cash registers and the turnstiles should be busy.

For a more in-depth look at the numbers of baseball, check out Foul Ball, by Bob Bobala.

Fool contributor Nathan Slaughter is an unabashed fan of the National League, and is hoping the senior circuit will pull off its first All-Star victory since a 6-0 shutout in 1996.