Unlike elsewhere in the world, corporate sponsorships on professional sports jerseys in the U.S. are far from commonplace. With an inside baseball view of how lucrative they could be for the MLB, however, going mainstream might be just around the corner.
From a brand value perspective, the numbers add up. Specifically, a new analysis from Nielsen Sports found that MLB sleeve patches, which the league is considering, could deliver more value to brands than the sponsorship patches already in play in the NBA. The NBA patches debuted on 14 team jerseys during the 2017-2018 season, and all 30 teams had a jersey sponsor by the end of the 2018-19 season. The average QI Media Value (monetary value of exposure received by the sponsor) per team in the 2018-19 regular NBA season was $1.85 million, with the most valuable patch getting $8 million worth of exposure.
Much of the projected valuation for the MLB reflects the sheer nature of the length and pace of an average game—aspects that many are often critical of. Brands, however, may think otherwise. Think about it: There are 30 teams in MLB; they each play 162 games in the regular season over a six-month period; and games in 2018 were an average of three hours long. All in, game length and the comparatively slower pace bode well for brands looking for on-camera exposure. It’s also worth noting that jersey patches travel with the team, which means brands get exposure at home and away games—something that doesn’t happen with in-stadium branding.
To project the value of brand exposure via sleeve patch over a full regular season, Nielsen Sports used artificial intelligence and computer vision technology in combination with jersey sponsorship exposure data from the two MLB games held in London earlier this season. While not allowed domestically, uniform advertising in the MLB is permitted for international games.
So brand value for MLB jersey sponsors comes down to simple math. Sleeve patches would appear on TV screens more times and for greater stretches of time during an MLB game than the patches on NBA jerseys.
During the 2019 London series this past June between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, the MLB sleeve patches ranked second in number of exposures and fourth in duration across more than 20 in-venue sponsorship asset locations that Nielsen’s Sport24 database tracks.
Excluding jerseys, corporate branding in professional sports in the U.S. is widespread, ranging from the names of stadiums and arenas, themed areas within sports venues, general in-venue signage to even team names (NY Red Bulls). So the addition of sponsorship patches to MLB uniforms would be a logical extension, particularly in light of the fanfare around those now featured on NBA jerseys.
While many variables can affect the value of a sleeve patch, the game-by-game analysis of international games provides insight into how much value a brand could garner over a full season. Specifically, using the London games as a proxy, an individual team could garner $11 million in brand value over the course of a 162-game season.