MLB Likely to Follow NBA's Lead Through Sponsor Patches
If they are following Atlantic League action this year, baseball purists already have enough to gripe about, as Major League Baseball (MLB) is using the independent collection of teams to try out some possible rule changes. While the idea of stealing first base might be enough to roil their sensibilities, the thought of having players don sponsorship patches could prove the ultimate deal breaker, as it appears likely that such uniform additions could come three seasons from now.
Professional baseball has reached many interesting stages at it strives to maintain captive audiences and financial support from corporations. With respect to the financial aspect, 2018 marked the 16th-straight year of record gross revenues. Regarding the fans, the game has seen all but nine stadiums ink corporate naming rights agreements. Baseball is certainly not alone in attracting proprietors’ attention, as few teams across the four major professional sports do not give homage to some financial backer in the title of their home venue. In short, sports are huge economic opportunities for companies. With players already displaying patches that honor the game’s first openly all-salaried club, the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, 2019 the supposed kick-starter for the inclusion of more visual representations of corporate sponsorship.
Within three years, expect jersey patches on MLB uniforms. That's what sources tell SBJ's Terry Lefton this week. Clubs could average $6-8 million annually with the deals https://t.co/AQ9DFfCn73 pic.twitter.com/6CwaoAFHBF
— Sports Business Journal (@sbjsbd) July 15, 2019
We have given extensive coverage to the NBA’s ties with businesses, so since each team within the league has secured a corporate partner, many could have seen the idea that baseball would follow suit as a no-brainer. To those who feel the game needs some spicing up, the patches pitch makes perfect sense, especially since, at 162 regular season games per team, the MLB has the longest slate among the aforementioned major pro sports leagues. The bonds between the NBA squads and various corporate entities has, according to the National Law Review, generated more than $150 million since the 2017 inception of the patches. Since Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment contends that “the average LMB team should realize $6 million to $8 million per year from ad patches, with hallowed franchises like the [New York] Yankees getting significantly more,” bidding wars could become quite intriguing as team owners contemplate their sport’s next collective bargaining agreement in 2022.
Though there are fans who likely are still upset that the American League has not done away with the Designated Hitter Rule that has been in place since 1973. Many more folks, one might suspect, would take offense to the inclusion of logo patches on MLB jerseys. Yes, there is definitely some serious money to be made, but purists could (and perhaps should) cry that adding anything to a player’s uniform is the wrong way to go to add that cash. When it comes to finalizing that upcoming bargaining agreement, it will be interesting to see what sway that teams have on one another and where they individually stand on the issue. Franchises that struggle to generate winning seasons and rabid fan support might jump at the opportunity to have a quick cash injection, but what about perennial contenders who have no such trouble with putting people in seats and dollars in the bank?
Such a question will certainly be among the most important inquiries as teams prepare for what Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal is essentially dubbing a marketing guarantee. If we should accept now that such changes are coming, might it be worthwhile to ponder which companies will vie for which teams and which partnerships would make the most sense? As division races heat up and organizations consider the best steps to market their brands, plenty of names will likely crop up and look to revolutionize the game. Baseball, through its Players Weekend, for example, has realized the need to stay fresh and competitive as a major attraction for the country.
Therefore, is the adding of patches a natural progression in that vein, or is it a perplexing departure from reason?