Major League Baseball players’ uniform sleeves will sport corporate-sponsored patches beginning next season, and decals on batting helmets could come as early as this postseason, an MLB source said Friday.
It will be up to each club to pursue (or not) a logo to place on its players’ sleeves, and it appears certain the Red Sox will.
“We are excited for the opportunity to explore sponsorship partners in this space but it would be premature to outline timing at this early stage,” said Zineb Curran, Red Sox senior vice president and chief communications officer, in a text.
The patches, agreed to as part of the new collective bargaining agreement hammered out last month, represent a new revenue source for teams. The players agreed to wear them in part because of their belief that teams will spend some portion of the proceeds on player salaries.
William Barbera, president of Van Wagner Sports, a marketing and media sales company that provided analyses for multiple MLB teams, estimates that the initiative could bring $250 million-$300 million a year in revenues. That’s an average of $8 million-$10 million per team, with Barbera adding that large-market or especially popular ball clubs have the potential to reap at least double that amount.
The sports business network Boardroom estimates that the NBA’s uniform ads, which were first worn in the 2017-18 season, brought in approximately $250 million this year. The NHL allowed helmet ads in the 2020-21 season, and will begin a uniform patch program in 2022-23.
For at least the first year, the baseball-jersey patch will be 4 inches by 4 inches worn on one sleeve, with both MLB and the Players Association reviewing design options.
Each club is limited to one corporate partner, with the patch design to be the same for every uniform in every game.
If fans want to buy a jersey that has the corporate patch on the sleeve, they can do so only at a club store within the ballpark. Replica jerseys sold elsewhere will not include the patch.
Sponsors for alcohol, betting, and media brands will not be considered for patches.
The helmet decal is an MLB-controlled asset, one it could decide to activate as soon as this October’s expanded playoffs — another new feature of the CBA.
“Baseball has twice as many games as the NBA and NHL, way more than the NFL, so it has more opportunities to capture the logo on television,” said Barbera.
“Also, the game of baseball is more of a static game, as opposed to hockey or soccer or basketball where you’re moving up and down the court. There’s a lot more zoom-in on the players and the coaches and in the dugout, so the game really sets up well for this medium and for brands to really capture a lot more value for their expenditure.”