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Are NBA Jersey Sponsors Coming To The MLB?

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The History of NBA Jersey Ads

NBA jersey sponsors started in 2017. The experiment is nearly complete and the results are in – it was a huge success.

In 2012, The NBA hired Sponsorship Research Firm, SRI, to investigate whether they could add patches to NBA jerseys. Eventually, the NBA decided to roll out jersey ads in 2017 for a 3-year pilot.

Since its rollout, 29 teams (OKC remains the only team without a patch sponsor) have generated over $150 million/year in new revenue and sponsors are receiving 25%-50% more exposure than they would have on a comparable spend according to Navigate Research. 

Despite these staggering numbers and stats, do you remember the main sponsor for your favorite team? How many NBA jersey sponsors can you name? 

READ: How to measure an out-of-home (OOH) marketing campaign


NBA jersey ads and NBA jersey sponsors

Here’s a cheat sheet of some of the sponsorship deals via Marketwatch:

  • Atlanta Hawks: Sharecare (between 5 and 10 million a year for 3 years)
  • Boston Celtics:  General Electric  ($8 million a year for 3 years)
  • Brooklyn Nets:  Infor ($8 million a year for 3 years)
  • Charlotte Hornets:  Lending Tree   (undisclosed agreement)
  • Cleveland Cavaliers:  Goodyear (+10 million a year for 3 years)
  • Denver Nuggets:  Western Union  (between $5 million and $10 million annually)
  • Detroit Pistons:  Flagstar Bank  (between $5 million and $10 million annually)
  • Golden State Warriors:   Rakuten ($20 million a year for 3 years)
  • Los Angeles Lakers:  Wish ($12 million-$14 million a year for 3 years)
  • Miami Heat:  Ultimate Software US: ULTI   (undisclosed agreement)
  • Milwaukee Bucks:  Harley-Davidson   ($2.5 million and $6 million annually)
  • Orlando Magic:  Disney ($5 million and $10 million annually)
  • Minnesota Timberwolves:  Fitbit  ($3 million and $8 million annually)
  • New Orleans Pelicans:  Zatarain’s 
  • New York Knicks:  Squarespace 
  • Philadelphia 76ers: Stubhub ($5 million a year for 3 years)
  • Sacramento Kings:  Blue Diamond Almonds ($5 million a year for 3 years)
  • Toronto Raptors:  Sun Life   (more than $5 million annually)
  • Utah Jazz:  Qualtrics ($4 million a year for 3 years)

The MLB’s Turn

Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment and the Excel sports agency have both confirmed that they have received inquiries from MLB franchises regarding evaluations of the potential new inventory and the overall appetite of the marketplace.

It seems natural given the success of the NBA that the MLB would soon follow suit. However, the MLB will be facing much larger obstacles given its overall viewership trends and popularity.

According to Forbes, the MLB faced a harsh reality of its decline (2018):

  • Attendance: MLB attendance has dropped below 70 million for the first time in 15 years
  • Bad baseball: For the first time ever, eight teams finished with 95 losses or more, and three of them lost more than 100.
  • Strikeouts > Hits: First time ever, there were more strikeouts (41,207) than hits (41,019). The league batter average was .248 which is the lowest since 1972.
  • Decline in Home runs: Home runs were down 9% to 5,585
  • Salary drop: Despite the big numbers in the news, the average major league salary dropped for the first time since 2004

Will the MLB Adopt Jersey Ads?

Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment estimates that each MLB franchise will generate $6 million to $8 million per year from jersey patches. This is significant given that total MLB sponsorship revenue in 2018 was $932 million.

Will the MLB step up to the plate (sorry I couldn’t resist) and shake their traditionalist ways? If they don’t move quickly, will another professional franchise like the NHL sweep in first?

Only time will tell how this one plays out.

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