Will marketers hit a home run or strike out with MLB’s uniform ads?
Major League Baseball (MLB) last week revealed it is moving ahead with plans to place advertising on uniforms for the 2023 season, leaving the National Football League (NFL) the last remaining major American sports league holdout.
The sponsor’s logo will appear on the player’s sleeve.
“I think that jersey patches advertisements on jerseys are a reality of life in professional sports,” Commissioner Rob Manfred told the Baseball Writers’ Association of America last week. “That’s a revenue source that is significant enough that it is really impossible for the sport to ignore over the long haul.”
Major League Soccer became the first of the major North American leagues to allow jersey ads in 2007. The National Basketball Association (NBA) started selling sponsorship logos for the 2017-18 season. The National Hockey League (NHL) launched helmet ads for the 2020-21 season and jersey advertising last season.
Nielsen found that an MLB sleeve sponsor would appear on camera almost three times as often and as long as an NBA jersey sponsor logo, which is displayed on the front of a team’s uniform. The Boston Red Sox just reached a $17-million per year jersey sponsorship deal with Mass Mutual, plus incentives.
Many traditionalists have long railed against commercialism creeping into America’s oldest organized sport that dates back to 1876. Some were upset when Nike’s swoosh logo began appearing on the chest of players’ uniforms in 2019 under a new sponsorship deal.
Paul Lukas, founder and editor of Uni Watch, a blog devoted to uniform design, told the New York Post in 2019, “A uniform isn’t like other products, or even like other pieces of apparel. It already stands for a brand — the brand of the team. It should never be cluttered up with other branding.”
Whether advertisements on NFL jerseys would be worth the clutter in order to reduce the number of commercials has been explored on blogs.
At a media event earlier this year, NFL Chief Revenue Officer Rennie Anderson said the league was exploring blockchain sponsorships to raise incremental revenue but had no plans for advertising on jerseys. “I can’t imagine [Los Angeles Rams quarterback] Matthew Stafford hoisting the [Vince] Lombardi Trophy with a third-party brand on his chest. The need isn’t there,” she said.
- MLB Officially Allowing Ads on Uniforms in 2023 – Sports Illustrated
- MLB moving ahead with plans for advertising on uniforms next season – ESPN
- Why MLB turned Yankees jerseys into baseball purist nightmare – New York Post
- SBJ: Red Sox land Mass Mutual for jersey patch – Sports Business Journal
- Finally, a Reason to Celebrate the Length of an MLB Game – Nielsen
- NBA to Allow Ads on Jerseys – The Wall Street Journal
- NFL blockchain rights go on sale this week, and the league picks Detroit to host the 2024 draft – CNBC
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is the opportunity to advertise on MLB uniforms more likely to be a home run or strikeout for advertisers? What will it mean for the teams?