MLB recently became the fourth major professional sport in the U.S. to allow brand sponsorships on team jerseys, following the NHL, which is debuting them for the 2022-23 season. Both come a full 15 years after the MLS was first to embrace the premise stateside, but for brands thinking about the opportunity that sleeve patches will bring when the 2023 season kicks off, the upcoming payoff appears to have been worth the wait.
According to Nielsen Sports, the average on-screen Quality Index Media Value (QIMV)1 of a sleeve patch for the full regular MLB season is projected to exceed $12.4 million, significantly more than any other professional sports jersey sponsorship in the U.S.
Outside of the U.S., you’d be hard pressed to find a team jersey that doesn’t include some degree of corporate sponsorship—a trend that picked up momentum back in the 1970s among European soccer clubs looking for a bit of added revenue. Compared with other jersey sponsorship opportunities, however, the slower pace of baseball will showcase brands in a different perspective than they might otherwise be accustomed to.
For example, think about the screen time associated with a typical soccer player—a competitor who rarely stands still during game play and is often minimized on the screen to present viewers with large areas of the playing field at a time. These broadcast dynamics minimize the amount of time viewers can clearly see any on-jersey sponsorship branding. Season length and game duration are also uniform sponsor valuation considerations.
The approval of sponsorship sleeve patches on MLB jerseys was a part of the latest collective bargaining agreement between the league and players association. Shortly after the new agreement was signed, the San Diego Padres became the first team to enlist a sponsor, agreeing to a multiyear deal with Motorola for a reported $10 million per year.
By the end of the season, Nielsen projects that the sleeve asset alone will deliver a 1.5:1 return on Motorola’s rights fee investment. That’s because the patches are projected to have 39.5 hours of TV exposure during the 2023 season (out of 486 hours of total game time), and the media value of that exposure is $14.9 million2.
Given the metro areas they support, sponsorship patches on the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants jerseys would generate the highest QIMVs. The QIMV for the top five teams are projected to generate an average of $24.2 million for the upcoming MLB season, while the five at the opposite end of the spectrum are projected to deliver an average of $6.9 million.
For sponsors, televised sports present significant exposure opportunity. In the U.S., 98% of the 50 most-watched broadcast programs in the first three quarters of last year were sports programming3. And in terms of ROI, a recent Nielsen Sports analysis of 100 sponsorships between 2020 and 2021 in seven markets across 20 industries found that the sponsorships drove an average 10% lift in purchase intent among the exposed fanbase4.
While all marketers are focused on growing sales, brand awareness topped the list of priorities among the marketers surveyed for Nielsen’s 2022 Annual Marketing Report. And in line with that, 71% of marketers in North America believe new ad formats, including sponsorships, are very or extremely important media mix considerations. The percentages are even higher in the auto and financial services industries (84% and 74%, respectively).
In addition to the notable on-screen exposure that jersey patches receive, Nielsen’s 2021 Trust in Advertising study found that brand sponsorships in sporting events rank just behind recommendations from friends and family, as 81% of consumers reported either completely or somewhat trusting them (vs. 89% who trust recommendations).
With this year’s MLB postseason almost upon us, it won’t be long before the 2023 kicks off on March 30. If each of the league’s 30 teams secures a sponsor and has a sleeve patch on opening day, those patches are projected to generate an aggregate QIMV $371.4 million for the season’s 162 games.
- Media value of the live broadcast exposure received by the sponsor
- Nielsen Sports QIMV
- Nielsen National TV Panel
- Nielsen’s 2022 Annual Sports report