After 30 years together, John Hancock and the Boston Red Sox are parting ways.
The Boston-based insurance company has opted not to renew its sponsorship contract with the Sox, which expires at the end of this season. That means the giant John Hancock logo — the famous Hancock signature — that sits in lights atop Fenway Park’s center-field scoreboard will be coming down after the season is over.
But by spring, Red Sox players could be donning the logo of another local financial services giant on their jerseys. Sports Business Journal reported Monday that the Red Sox and MassMutual have agreed to the team’s first-ever advertising patch, though the deal is not yet finalized.
Either way, Hancock is on the way out.
Chief executive Marianne Harrison told employees about the change in a memo distributed Monday, in advance of a company party scheduled to take place at Fenway on Wednesday. John Hancock — long based in Boston — has done business with the Red Sox since 1992, and put its name in lights atop the scoreboard in 2001.
“We are so proud of our 30 years with the Red Sox and all the games, events, and historic moments that our iconic sign has lit up — from winning the 2004 playoff with heroics that broke the curse to unforgettable concerts by legendary artists,” Harrison wrote. “We’re planning an exciting new home for the sign and will share more details with you all very soon.”
In 2004, John Hancock was purchased by Canadian insurer Manulife, and Harrison wrote that the company opted not to renew with the Sox so it could focus more on aligning its “future community investments” with its parent company’s new “Impact Agenda.” The tenets of that agenda, announced a few months ago, include: empowering health and well-being, driving inclusive economic opportunities; and accelerating a sustainable future.
“As our business evolves, so too must our partnerships to support our future business and growth goals,” Harrison added. “With an eye toward the opportunities yet to come, we are evaluating new partnerships to support our distribution team in the future.”
John Hancock remains the lead sponsor of the Boston Marathon, though last year, after a round of layoffs, it handed over management of the race’s elite athlete field to the Boston Athletic Association.
Hancock’s departure from Fenway could create an opening for MassMutual.
Sports Business Journal reported Monday that the Red Sox and MassMutual have agreed to terms on a 10-year, approximately $170 million deal with team-performance incentives that could boost the value to $20 million a year.
A spokeswoman for MassMutual — which is headquartered in Springfield and recently opened a large new office in Boston’s Seaport District — declined to comment, citing a company policy of not commenting on rumors.
A Red Sox spokesperson said the club had nothing to add to John Hancock’s announcement that the deal is ending at the conclusion of this season.
Red Sox principal owner John Henry also owns The Boston Globe.
Next season is the first in which Major League Baseball teams can wear advertising patches. MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association approved the concept in their new collective bargaining agreement in March, freeing each of the 30 clubs to pursue a corporate partner willing to pay for a 4-inch-by-4-inch patch to be worn on one sleeve of both home and away uniforms beginning next season.
MLB teams are hoping that potential corporate sponsors will be keen to capitalize on the ubiquitous close-ups of batters and pitchers that should feature the wearable iron-on ads. Players in turn did not object to the plan, calculating that some portion of the new revenue stream will trickle down to their salaries.
The Red Sox have engaged talent agency CAA to help them land their new corporate partner. Sports Business Journal reported that the Red Sox-MassMutual advertising patch pending deal was prevalent in corporate circles during last week’s MLB All-Star Game gathering in Los Angeles.
The article described a Red Sox marketer labeling the deal as a “rumor,” with others “treating the team’s agreement as fait accompli and adjusting prices accordingly.”
The only baseball patch deal that has become public to date is a four-year deal between the San Diego Padres and Motorola worth $9 million a year.
NBA teams have begun advertising patches in recent years, with the Celtics switching theirs in 2020 from GE to Vistaprint. According to the sports business network Boardroom, NBA uniform ads accounted for approximately $250 million in overall revenues this past season.
The NHL will introduce advertising patches to their jerseys this coming season. The Bruins have yet to announce any partners.
And while baseball teams control advertising on their jerseys, MLB holds the rights for advertising on batting helmets. Those ads may be seen as soon as these October’s playoffs.