Sponsor Insights

Batter Up, Brands: MLB Jersey Patch Deals are Changing the Game for Sponsors

While it’s been just two weeks since Opening Day–the first since the MLB approved sponsors on uniforms–we’ve already seen 8 jersey patch deals activated, with the latest, between the New York Mets and NewYork-Presbyterian, having debuted last week. Eight different categories have bought MLB jersey patches thus far–and with 22 more jersey patch opportunities open, here’s a rundown of which brands, categories, and teams have inked a deal, and which categories lead other major pro sports leagues in buying this asset.

Of the eight current MLB jersey patch deals, seven are local brands headquartered in each team’s respective market. The only team without a local partner is the San Diego Padres, which was the first ever to sign such a partnership–with Motorola–last April. 

Another interesting aspect of the MLB jersey patch trend is the placement of the patches on the uniforms. The sleeve on which the patch is worn depends on whether the player is a right-handed or left-handed batter, ensuring that the patch is visible to the centerfield cameras with the prime shot of the at-bat. This attention to detail highlights the strategic approach teams are taking to maximize the visibility of their sponsors and deliver value to their partners.

There are 3 other Major Pro Sports leagues that allow uniform sponsors during the regular season: MLS and the NBA with a primary jersey patch, and the NHL with helmet signage. Financial (23%), Technology (15%), Healthcare (10%), Auto (6%) and Insurance (6%) lead the list of categories buying these assets within these leagues. So far in MLB, one Healthcare brand, (NewYork-Presbyterian) and one Financial brand (MassMutual) have a jersey patch deal–so will Technology, Auto, and Insurance follow suit? Or will the league entice other categories–like CBD, whose sponsorships the league approved last June–to leverage this high-profile asset? (Speaking of, the Chicago Cubs signed a deal with MYND DRINKS last week–marking the first CBD team deal within MLB.) Time will tell this season, as more deals are sure to be announced imminently.  

MLB Kicks Off 2023 Season with a Slew of New Sponsors

Today’s MLB Opening Day is kicking off with a bang, as America’s favorite pastime flies high on the heels of the record-setting success of the World Baseball Classic. And as the season begins, brands are hoping to hit a home run with sponsorships that leverage the sport’s perennial popularity. 

Last week, Booking.com announced it had signed on as MLB’s Official Online Travel Partner, with the mission to simplify the way Americans plan their baseball-inspired travels across the US. As part of the long term partnership, the company also became the presenting sponsor of the American and National League Division Series.

The offseason saw MLB ink an array of other new partnerships as well. Zoom became the league’s Official Unified Communications Platform and Presenting Partner of the MLB Replay Review on March 16th, in a groundbreaking deal designed to deliver unprecedented transparency to fans, and enhanced communication between umpires and league officials. Call-ins from the umpire will use Zoom Contact Center to power the Zoom Replay Operations Center, and be available to fans on national broadcasts, including MLB Network and Apple TV, to create a more engaging fan experience.

SeatGeek replaced StubHub as MLB’s official ticket marketplace on February 27th, following four other deals in the last four months with the Baltimore Ravens, Utah Jazz, Real Salt Lake, and United Soccer League. The partnership aims to make it easier than ever for fans to buy and sell tickets to league games on the secondary market, and scan directly into the ballpark. 

MLB named FanDuel as its new Official Sports Betting Partner of MLB in North America in early March. The deal gives the gaming destination national broadcast integrations and expanded marketing rights, and customers the ability to watch and wager on games on FanDuel’s  Sportsbook app, as well as its OTT platform, FanDuel+.

Meanwhile, tonight’s ESPN Opening Night Broadcasts will be presented by buzzy tequila brand Casamigos. Considering that tequila was the fastest growing alcohol subcategory last year (across Major Pro Sports) with a 66% increase in total deals–and MLB currently lacks a tequila sponsor–perhaps a Casamigos partnership is in the league’s future.

MLB Targets Partners As Sports Betting Evolves

The MLB is leading the charge from a partnership perspective as the sports betting industry continues to evolve in the US, as revealed in the MLB 2022 Marketing Partnerships Report released last week. 

According to the report, 13 MLB teams hail from states where retail and online betting have been legalized. In states where online gambling approval is still pending, teams have inked in-venue signage assets to stake their claim as future official partners to sports betting brands.

Take the Chicago White Sox, for example. Illinois’ first retail sportsbook debuted in March 2020, and the team unveiled teaser signage with Caesars Sportsbook in September 2021. Following the state’s legalization of online sportsbooks in March 2022, the White Sox named Caesars Sportsbook its official sports betting partner.

The deal includes the following assets:

  • Entertainment content, such as the “KLINKO Challenge”
  • 1st & 3rd base digital ads
  • Outfield wall signage
  • Backstop rotating banner ads
  • Digital ads in the outfield’s mid-upper level 
  • Ribbon board digital ads
  • Inner bowl signage
  • Digital ads on the Videoboard
  • Stadium concourse TV commercial
  • Exterior ground rotating billboard

During the 2022 season, the Houston Astros, Cleveland Guardians, and St. Louis Cardinals were just a few teams that followed the White Sox’s lead, selling outfield wall signage in anticipation of online betting’s imminent legalization in their home states.

Golden Glove Endorsements

Rising stars took over the MLB Gold Glove Winners list with 14 players earning the award for the first time across the AL and NL leagues. With many new faces winning for the 1st time, brands will have the opportunity to capitalize on these rising stars.

Athletic apparel and equipment brands most frequently partnered with this year’s Gold Glove Award Winners, led by Rawling Sporting Goods (6), Franklin Sports (5), New Balance (4), and Nike (4).

To learn more about endorsement deals in the MLB and much more, visit HERE.

MLB 2022 Marketing Partnerships Report


Global Icon and MLB Star Shohei Ohtani Sets New Record for Brand Endorsements
Major League Baseball sponsorships increase 8% year-over-year

The MLB 2022 Marketing Partnerships Report analyzes brand partnerships across the league, teams, and individual players during the 2022 season. The report found that MLB secured 3,350 sponsorships this year (an 8% increase YoY) and its teams averaged 108 sponsorships each–more than the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLS.

“MLB and its teams have continued to lean heavily into initiatives that provide brands with innovative ways to expand consumer reach,” said Bob Lynch, founder and CEO of SponsorUnited. “The new streaming rights deal with Apple, virtual signage, teams further digitizing stadium signage, and jersey patches are just a few of many examples of how they’re bringing baseball brand partnerships into the future.”

The report also found: 

Shohei Ohtani “Shotime” is the most marketable MLB player in recent history
The Los Angeles Angels hitter/pitcher phenomenon totaled 17 brand endorsements in 2022, breaking Aaron Judge’s record of 13 endorsements in 2021. Shotime tripled his endorsement revenue after becoming the first player to appear on the covers of GQ, Time, Sports Illustrated, and MLB The Show in a six-month span. The reigning AL MVP also attracted 22 Japanese brands to Angel Stadium, the most of any MLB ballpark.

The Cincinnati Reds lead the league in sponsorships for the third consecutive year
With 200 brand deals this year, the Cincinnati Reds continues to be the most sponsored MLB team for the third year in a row. The team’s largest sponsors include Kroger, PNC Bank, altafiber and TriHealth. The New York Yankees take the #2 spot with approximately 170 deals–climbing from #4 in 2021–while the Boston Red Sox land at #3 with more than 150 sponsorships.  

StubHub and New Era are the leading sponsors of the official league
As long-time official league partners, StubHub and New Era have representation at stadiums for each of the 30 MLB teams. The top non-league partners, with more than 10 deals across various teams, include State Farm, Coca-Cola, Progressive, Chick-fil-A and Toyota.

Digital advertising takes center stage on outfield walls while static signage dips
From 2021 to 2022 YoY, MLB saw an increase in demand for digital signage within baseball parks. Home run territory became a hot commodity for advertisers seeking clearer, more creative messaging through LED technology. The number of brands “going digital” grew by 36%–led by the Food and Alcohol categories–while static signage decreased 23%. Digital ads in the mid-upper outfield grew by 53%, followed by ads on the video board at 14%. 

MLB ramps up brand deals with CBD companies
Following MLB’s announcement in June allowing teams to seek CBD sponsorships, CBD inquiries increased 9x versus the month before (May 2022). According to SponsorUnited, more than 150 CBD brands were searched within the platform, cbdMD being the top search (with 13 current sponsorships). 

Shohei Ohtani Woos Sponsors Worldwide

Los Angeles Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani became the most marketable MLB player in recent history during the 2022 MLB season, dazzling fans around the globe with his talents. Let’s take a look at his current partnerships and his arguably boundless endorsement potential. 

Japan’s megastar designated hitter/pitcher racked up 17 brand endorsements in 2022, breaking Aaron Judge’s record of 13 deals the previous season. “Shotime” tripled his endorsement revenue after becoming the first player to appear on the covers of GQ, Time, Sports Illustrated, and MLB The Show during a six-month span.

While the bona fide phenom has yet to partner with brands on social media–another potential marketing juggernaut for him and prospective sponsors–Ohtani’s 21% growth YoY in followers on Instagram, his only current social platform, offers would-be partners a potential audience of 1.5 million fans (and counting). His sole branded post so far: the announcement of his star turn on the cover of MLB The Show. 

Ohtani’s relatively low social media profile aside, his outsize international appeal is such that he’s enticed a slew of Japanese brands to advertise stateside when he’s on the field–not only in Angel Stadium, but in other MLB ballparks as well. These far-flung brands bought backstop ads all season when the dynamo stepped up to bat: 22 scooped up signage at Angels home games, while 11 brands followed him to 10 opposing teams’ stadiums. 

The 22 brands buying “Shotime” at Angels home games were:

  • Konica Minolta
  • Honda
  • Sapporo Ichiban
  • Left-U
  • Daiso Japan Store
  • Yamada
  • Inpex
  • Yamadai
  • Nishikawa
  • Lotte
  • Cygames
  • JAE- Japan Aviation Electronics Industry
  • GungHo Online Entertainment
  • NEC
  • Bandai Namco Entertainment
  • Funai Electric
  • THK
  • Nikon
  • Yakult
  • Yokohama
  • Nitto Tire
  • Toyota

The first inning is prime time for these brands, as it all but guarantees exposure with Ohtani on the mound or at the plate. Suffice it to say that if the 2022 season is any indication, the sky’s seemingly the limit for “Shotime” within the sponsorship universe. 

New & Revised Sponsorships Mirror Fans’ Evolving Tastes

The 2022 MLB season saw the league take baseball audiences’ changing appetites to heart–as reflected in a groundbreaking new sponsorship category and restructured longtime sponsorship agreements. 

MLB’s landmark approval of CBD sponsorships for teams last June–and the league’s own deal with CBD brand Charlotte’s Web to become MLB’s first-ever CBD sponsor, inked this month–underscores its groundbreaking efforts to cater to fans’ evolving tastes and further expand its fan base, a progressive approach that’s sure to attract even more savvy brands to baseball. 

Following the landmark June announcement last June, CBD inquiries increased 9x versus the month before, as MLB bigwigs researched over 150 cannabis brands. cbdMD led the list of CBD companies searched most frequently by MLB executives on the SU platform during the 2022 season–joining two others among the top 10 most searched brands overall.

Meanwhile, MLB’s sponsorship deal with Anheuser-Busch InBev–the longest in the league’s history at 42 years–extended A-B InBev’s marketing rights beyond Budweiser, the league’s co-exclusive beer sponsor, to encompass the megabrewer’s canned cocktails and hard seltzers. The move reflects the burgeoning popularity of other beverages within the Alcohol category, while beer’s own share has declined 13% over the last five years.

Big Tech Inks Big Deals With The Big Leagues

The Cloud, Data & CRM Solutions category has been active within pro sports in the US over the past few years, as Amazon Web Services’ deal with the NHL and NFL and Second Spectrum’s partnership with the NBA and MLS made headlines. Last week, MLB and Google Cloud announced the expansion of their partnership that began in 2020, which will see MLB pilot Google Cloud’s media content delivery network (CDN) to continue innovating in the realm of live action, on-demand and archival content. 

Not surprisingly, social media posts are the top asset bought by these brands: more than 5.3K posts across 450 deals in the category have engaged 43M followers in the last 12 months, with each deal averaging 12 posts. 

The Golden State Warriors had a major hand in these impressive engagement stats, thanks to the team’s partnerships with Oracle and Google Cloud, which saw the Warriors post 635 times for the former and 253 times for the latter in the last year. In the process, they engaged over 15M and 10M followers for Google and Oracle, respectively–making the Warriors responsible for a whopping 60% of the category’s engagement. 

Top 5 brands ranked by total deals (Sponsorship & Media) 

  • Google (Alphabet): 770
  • IBM: 100 
  • Oracle: 97 
  • Amazon Web Services: 95
  • Google Cloud: 48

Top 5 platforms/assets bought

  • Social posts: 38%
  • Property entitlements: 36%
  • Digital content: 34%
  • Television ads: 15%
  • Products & services: 13%

Though 45% of Google Cloud’s partnerships are with MLB properties–the “Statcast powered by Google Cloud” is a prominent feature during MLB broadcasts–its 15M-plus social media engagements derived largely from the Golden State Warriors deal. The remainder came primarily from the MLB, totaling 618K followers across 57 posts. 

Since 2015, the NFL has used Amazon Web Services (AWS) for its Next Gen Stats platform, which immerses fans in real-time data by analyzing millions of data points down to the millimeter. In the past 12 months, the league’s partnership with AWS generated more than 218K total engagements, of which the New York Giants contributed 116K–53%–with just 7 posts. 

AWS also works closely with the NHL, having become the league’s official Cloud, artificial intelligence, and machine learning infrastructure provider in February 2021; since then, it’s introduced stats including face-off probability. In the past 12 months, the NHL’s official Isocial media platforms has posted 24 AWS-sponsored posts, engaging 174K followers. Overall, AWS has garnered 678K likes, shares, and comments across 34 deals and 377 posts in the same period, with the brand’s NFL and NHL partnerships accounting for 58% of this social engagement. 

MLB Field of Dreams Game

Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs who defeated the Cincinnati Reds in the second edition of MLB’s Field of Dreams Game presented by Geico.

Most frequent brands seen on Fox Broadcast:

Most frequent assets leveraged:

  • Recorded Commercial
  • Virtual Signage Projected in Lower Bowl
  • Live Read Commercial
  • 1st Base / 3rd Baseline Billboards
  • Broadcast Ad / Logo Pop Up

* Venue assets under MLB property. Broadcast assets under MLB on FOX property

MLB All-Star Week Recap

The MLB Home Run Derby, presented by T-Mobile, took place Monday in LA, with Juan Soto of the Washington Nationals–arguably the hottest player in professional baseball– taking home the championship.

Over 30 brands, all MLB partners, had signage across Dodger Stadium. T-Mobile’s nearly 15 assets ranged from event-related content (a sponsored 30 seconds of bonus batting time for each contestant who hit two home runs over 440 feet) to signage across the outfield.

Meanwhile, more than 50 brands leveraged the event’s ESPN broadcast with commercials. Notably, 3 of the top 5 TV advertisers were within the QSR Pizza category: 

  • Lending Tree
  • PizzaHut
  • Domino’s
  • Apple
  • Papa Johns

Home Run Derby champion Juan Soto–the youngest player ever to debut in the MLB, at age 19 in 2018–has 5 endorsement deals, with Under Armour, Lids, Glu Mobile, QuickBooks, and Wilson Sporting Goods. Unlike many other pro athletes, Soto utilizes TikTok, where he showcases his QuickBooks & Under Armour sponsorships.

The Derby was followed by the 2022 MLB All-Star Game on Tuesday, where the American League beat the National League by a score of 3-2.

With 8 total assets, GEICO served as presenting sponsor of the broadcast on FOX. GEICO and MasterCard were the top advertisers, with 6 commercials each during game breaks.

Chevrolet, Google Cloud, MasterCard, and Papa Johns each presented featured segments during the game:

  • Chevrolet sponsored the MVP Award, which went to New York Yankee, Giancarlo Stanton.
  • The “Statcast,” which measures the exit velocity and distances of home runs, was sponsored by Google Cloud.
  • MasterCard sponsored the Stand Up To Cancer portion of the broadcast.
  • The pre-show “Countdown to First Pitch” clock and the starting lineups at gametime were both sponsored by Papa John’s. 

Similar to the Home Run Derby, signage at the stadium from MLB partners included a variety of assets, such as projected, 1st & 3rd baseline signage, and lower bowl signage.