This uniform advertisement was in display during
the 2008 season-opening series in Japan. This
past week the floodgates opened on uniform
sponsorships. Baseball, you're now up to bat.
For several years now, I have been writing that it was a matter of when, not if, we’ll see corporate advertisements on jerseys in Major League Baseball, by looking at the corporate advertisement during the World Baseball Classic, and Opening Day games in Japan. As I reported in March just before the start of the WBC:
The idea of finding unobtrusive ways of engaging more sponsorship activation may never have been closer.
The reason is, of course, the gloomy economy.
When times are tough, you can always count on reevaluating old taboos. As the need for the almighty dollar makes owners and league executives redefine what is pure and what is not, aspects like uniform advertisement, or revisit the sacrilegious idea of ads on the sides of bases, become more likely.
Given that baseball is slow to move against its traditions (the hullabaloo over the Spiderman 2 6"x6" logo on the top of the bases that was to occur for all of two days in June of 2004 during interleague is the best example), it’s not surprising that other U.S. sports leagues finally have broken through the barrier.
Certainly MLS is not new to this, but the Big-4 had not done so. And while the WNBA is by all accounts a distant cousin to the NBA, it is the women’s pro basketball league that jumped out with not one, but two deals over the past week, with more on the horizon
On Monday, the Phoenix Mercury announced that they had reached a sponsorship agreement with identity-theft protection company LifeLock to have a 10-inch-by-4-inch version of their logo displayed across the front of their jerseys. Today, the LA Spark announced a similar deal with Farmers Insurance. The Fever and Storm have both been reported to be the next WNBA teams to go the jersey sponsorship route.
As mentioned, this is the WNBA, and not one of the Big-4, but ever so quietly, the NFL has jumped into the mix.
The Indianapolis Colts and Dallas Cowboys are reportedly close to deals that would place corporate advertisement on practice jerseys.
With these deals moving quickly, and sponsors a limited pool, baseball is assuredly eyeing these events. It may be that baseball starts with logos on jerseys worn during batting practice, or possibly during Spring Training. As the bar continues to inch forward, in the not too distant future, all sports leagues are bound to see some form of advertisements on jerseys during games, such as the WNBA is doing.
But, as with everything, it isn’t always as easy as it seems. What happens if a stadium has pouring rights for Pepsi and Coca-Cola wants to do jersey sponsorship? What if adidas is looking for uniform ads, but Nike is a key sponsor in the ballpark, such is now the case with the Yankees? All of this will be played out over the course of the next few years. Bank on it. Or, maybe I should say, look for a bank advertisement on a jersey for your sports team near you. Remember, money is hard for owners to say no to, and here’s one more revenue stream to collect from.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
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