Sponsor Insights

MLB Greenlights CBD

Given Major League Baseball’s landmark announcement last week that teams can now sell CBD sponsorships, the already buzzy category will soon be top of mind for many in pro sports. With more than 160 CBD brands buying sponsorship or media, MLB executives can expect an influx of calls from those vying for the coveted distinction of becoming the official CBD partner of an MLB team. 

Time will tell if MLB players will also dive into CBD, following athletes like NFL star Dalvin Cook–who endorses CBD brand Medterra–and PGA golfers Bubba Watson and Patrick Reed, who both have deals with CBD sponsorship leader cbdMD.  

Another sign of the CBD industry’s burgeoning momentum? Two CBD brands–cbdMD and Charlotte’s Web–made the top 50 in SponsorUnited’s June most-searched list. 

Here’s a snapshot of current trends across properties where CBD partnerships are legal.

The current CBD industry leaders in terms of total sponsorship deals:

  1. cbdMD
  2. 3Chi
  3. Beam Organics
  4. Charlotte’s Web
  5. Select
  6. Pure Spectrum
  7. Trulieve
  8. Cannadips
  9. Mendi
  10. Love Hemp

The most popular assets bought by CBD brands are social media posts, property entitlements, digital content, outdoor signage, and event content/activations. Emerging marketing assets include Instagram posts, official sponsor/use of marks, logo displayed on websites, static billboards, and talent endorsements.

Social media is a leading activation for CBD brands–as evidenced by their top-five most engaged posts with the following properties: 

  1. Jon Jones X Just CBD | Engagement: 186,479
  2. Kamaru Usman X Love Hemp | Engagement: 176,802
  3. Kamaru Usman X Love Hemp | Engagement: 159,361
  4. Charles Oliveira X AthletiCBD | Engagement: 128,363
  5. Ultimate Fighting Club (UFC) X Love Hemp | Engagement: 123,344

Brands Leverage Rising MLB Stars

Every MLB season a star is born where fans and brands are eagerly tracking every move of the rising star. Back in 2019, the name Vladimir Guerrero Jr. might only have been known to Blue Jays fans. That quickly changed for the rising star turned superstar who landed a spot in the Home Run Derby his rookie year. He went from 0 endorsement deals in ’19 to 14 deals just two seasons later. Vlad is now the #1 most endorsed MLB athlete in the league.

Which rising stars will impress brands the most this year in hopes to secure top deals?

In his 5th season with the LA Angels, Taylor Ward is in the top 5 for MLB Batting Average and is expected to 4X his total at bats. This is a trend fans and brands love to see. Based on the current landscape of MLB player endorsements, which brands can we expect to target Ward?

Ranked by total number of MLB endorsements, here are the top 5 categories along with the top brands.

  1. Leisure & Recreation
    1. Rawlings
    2. Wilson
    3. Topps
  2. Apparel & Accessories
    1. Nike
    2. New Balance
    3. Franklin Sports
  3. Retail
    1. Forever Collectibles
    2. Dick’s Sporting Goods
    3. TicketSmarter
  4. Technology
    1. Adobe Creative Cloud
    2. MLB The Show
    3. Candy Digital
  5. Beverage – Non-Alcoholic
    1. Pepsi
    2. BodyArmor
    3. Essentia Water

Here are players on the rise that brands should be watching this year:

  • Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays
  • Alek Manoah, Toronto Blue Jays
  • Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins
  • Triston McKenzie, Cleveland Guardians
  • Luis Robert, Chicago White Sox
  • Eloy Jimenez, Chicago White Sox
  • Wander Franco, Tampa Bay Rays
  • Michael Kopech, Chicago White Sox
  • Jhoan Duran, Minnesota Twins
  • Nestor Cortes, New York Yankees
  • Shane McClanahan, Tampa Bay Rays
  • Jeremy Pena, Houston Astros
  • Brandon Nimmo, New York Mets

MLB Brand Collaborations

Nearly two months into the MLB season and brands are already leaving their mark on fans with their unique MLB collaborations. From high end apparel to snacks and alcohol, brands are making an impact across stadiums utilizing players, teams and the league to promote their brands.

What’s so special about these partnerships?

Hi-Chew has teamed up with three MLB teams, the Chicago Cubs, Tampa Bay Rays & St. Louis Cardinals to bring their candy to the stadiums. Hi-Chew will be available in-stadium for fans and even the Cardinals players in the dugout, to enjoy. The brand will also sponsor the Dance Cam for the Cardinals, the Kids Club for the Rays and have video board signage with the Cubs. Not a bad gig for an international brand brought stateside. 

Gucci has created another MLB Capsule collection which will be sold through Gucci’s Vault, an online concept store. Fans can purchase limited-edition Gucci x MLB apparel inclusive of varsity jackets, zip-up hoodies, co-branded caps, and more.

As the Official Treat and Burger of the MLB Dairy Queen partnered with four MLB stars, Tim Anderson, Cody Bellinger, Bryce Harper & Fernando Tatis Jr. in a new advertising campaign. Tim Andersona & Bryce Harper will be going head to head promoting their favorite stackburger and blizzard treat and fans can even vote on the winning meal.

Budweiser and the MLB extended on their partnership right after the lockout ended this year. Budweiser partnered with 14 teams showcasing the team’s branding on the front of their cans for sale in each team’s city.

MLB New Deals

Just over a month into the MLB season and the league has seen six new partnerships enter the scene. Adobe, Capital One, Corona, Mattress Firm, Cue Health, and Dairy Queen all have a variety of assets and activations on display in stadium and throughout MLB broadcast. 

Each brand has become an Official Sponsor of the league with their own designations. What assets have these brands utilized during the season so far?

Adobe signed a deal with the MLB becoming the Official Creativity Partner of the league. Throughout the season, Adobe can be spotted during nationally televised games with signage projected in the lower bowl and in MLB emails as a sponsored partner. Right after MLB Opening Weekend, on April 11th Adobe sponsored a video on Twitter with the MLB asking fans the question “What was your favorite part of Opening Weekend?”.

Capital One, the Official Bank and Credit Card Partner of the MLB, had over five assets activated in just the first month. In some games, their logo has been  projected on the back of the pitcher’s mound as well as in the lower bowl during Sunday Night games on ESPN. Capital One also sponsors on  YouTub, the 2022 Game Recaps along with a video series on MLB.com known as Capital One Walk Offs showcasing the walk off wins from each game that has one.

Corona has become the Official Cerveza of the MLB. Already, Corona has leveraged the branded projected lower bowl signage, pre-roll commercials and branded social posts. As the season moves on, one can expect more custom content on MLB.com and MLB Network.

Cue Health signed a deal with the MLB becoming the league’s trusted at-home testing solution for COVID-19. The first ever Apple TV Friday Night Baseball game was co-sponsored by Cue Health and ZipRecruiter. In addition, all @MLB game highlights on their social channels that night tagged Cue Health.

Designated the Official Treat and Burger of the MLB Dairy Queen has had projected signage in the lower bowl as well as multiple social tags by @MLB. Every Grand Slam through the season will also be sponsored by Dairy Queen on social media.

Mattress Firm was named the Official Sleep Wellness Partner of the MLB. The brand will be launching sweepstakes that gives winners the chance to win VIP experiences throughout the year.

MLB Endorsements

International superstar Shohei Ohtani has garnered an impressive 188% increase in social followers YoY. That has translated into signing more than 10 endorsements with brands globally. How does that compare to teammate Mike Trout? Trout’s social following has only grown 2% over the past year but it has not slowed down the amount of deals he has which are in the double digits.

How does this compare to other star players around the league?

Signing mega deals for a player’s “performance” has not always meant endorsement deals off the field. Two examples of this are Max Scherzer & Gerrit Cole who are the two highest paid pitchers in baseball. Each player totals only two deals, both have a deal with Rawlings, while Scherzer has a deal with Indeed and Cole with Nike. Notably, both of these players are not as active on social media as some other star players having under 1 million followers each.

Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper comes to mind when thinking about players like Trout having more than five endorsements off the field while signing big contracts for his game play. Harper has over 2 million followers on social media that his brand partners like Dairy Queen, Gatorade & Fanatics leverage. Harper’s followers average a 4% engagement rate on his social posts totalling over 380k engagements, the most of the five athletes mentioned. Ohtani leads the group with 11 total deals and highest

 

Baseball is Back, and 1 Brand is Showing Off Their Newest Partnership

For the first time, Apple TV+ covered MLB Friday night baseball and their brand integrations throughout the broadcasts were seamless. The doubleheader broadcast was presented by Cue Health and ZipRecruiter and Apple products were uniquely featured throughout the broadcast.

Apple TV+’s first iteration of their MLB broadcast featured the New York Mets vs. the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros vs. the Los Angeles Angels, covered by Stephen Nelson (play-by-play), Hunter Pence (analyst), Katie Nolan (analyst), and Heidi Watney (reporter). 

Sub-brands and concepts from Apple were integrated during the competition aiming to enhance the viewers experience. Each player’s “Walk Up Song” was presented by Apple Music with the Apple Music Logo and song details featured on screen next to the batter. How long until Apple integrates a QR code for viewers to automatically download or purchase music directly from the TV during Friday night games?

Apple’s Siri was utilized to activate both entertainment and event related content, providing fans with fun trivia questions and calculated probability stats during the games. Reporter Heidi Watney conducted interviews while wearing a pair of Apple Airpods Max. For added exposure for the brand, Watney was interrupted during her live interview with Jeremy Peña’s parents by Peña’s first ever career home run. 

Amazon is also making headway in the professional sports broadcast game in 2022, after Prime Video was announced as the exclusive home of NFL Thursday Night Football. Prime Video’s first NFL broadcast was in 2017, with non-exclusive streaming rights to ten regular season games. The new Thursday coverage will feature legendary sports broadcaster Al Michaels, who covered his record 11th SuperBowl this past year. The National Football League currently  partners with Amazon by leveraging Amazon Web Services (AWS) to provide new stats that create better experiences for fans, players and teams.

Apple TV+’s studio’s Pre-Game Show was presented by BetMGM and Post-Game Show by SoFI. The Friday night coverage will continue through the season, including tonight for Jackie Robinson Day. Broadcasts for Apple TV+ coverage are available in the United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

MLB x AppleTV

Coming Soon, MLB Jersey Sponsors… and Batting Helmet Sponsors?

The MLB approved jersey patch inventory for the upcoming 2022 season. Teams aim to increase revenue to keep up with the growing cost of player contracts. According to SponsorUnited, there are over 165 brands actively buying sponsorships on uniforms among US Major Pro Sports. This includes helmets in NHL and jersey sleeves in MLS.

Of these categories, Healthcare takes the top spot as the most frequent sponsorship buyer for uniform exposure deals. Healthcare has 25% of all deals by a single category, followed by Financial and Technology categories. Will this trend continue in the MLB, or will new categories and emerging brands disrupt the scene?

In 2021, the MLB saw strategic partnerships thrive within the Education sector. This category brought in more revenue to the MLB than any other Major Pro Sport in the US. One category expected to see growth this season, according to SponsorUnited’s MLB 2021 Marketing & Partnerships Annual Report, is Cryptocurrency. The top three most-searched brands in 2021 by MLB executives throughout the season were FTX, Coinbase and Crypto.com. FTX also signed a moon-sized deal with the league. 

After a season of empty stadiums in 2020, more than 400 brands produced content on the big screens located in the outfield as game/entertainment content on the videoboard was the MLB’s top activation in 2021. International Car Manufacturers continue to drive towards TV deals as they were the top category in 2021, a trend that is poised to continue for a 6th straight year.

Streaming Services Give Sports a Global Footprint

With the MLB and MLBPA agreeing to a deal yesterday, Apple has signed a major deal with the league to stream games on Apple TV. This marks the 6th deal for the tech giant’s streaming service who will host  “Friday Night Baseball,” a weekly doubleheader with live pre and post game shows. The deal will span across the UK, US, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico and South Korea to start with more countries expected to be added. 

So what does this mean for brands? Brands will get their share of the pie as this will also open up partnerships across streaming services to allow brands to expand their global reach and international brands to gain access to the US markets. 

Amazon and the NFL have signed a similar agreement beginning this upcoming season as well as HBO Max the the U.S Soccer Federation beginning in 2023.

Many of these streaming platforms have the capabilities to reach hundreds of countries around the world and the TV landscape is changing. In a recent forecast of digital sports viewership by eMarketer, almost one in four US live sports viewers watched via digital channels in 2020. Within the Amazon and NFL partnerships, Amazon is expected to utilize enhanced shopping features, where users can interact mid-game with a product, increasing brand conversion rates. Traditional in-game commercials will continue to run, but with the ability to know your user, Amazon is expected to debut targeted advertisements which brands across the world will.

 

Major Pro Sports | Technology Sponsorships Annual Report

Major Pro Sport Tech Insight

The Tech Category is now the 6th highest ranked within Major Pro Sports sponsorships, averaging 9 sponsorship deals per team. Over 400 technology and consumer electronics brands are buying sponsorship or media across the leagues.

Interested in learning more about spend data within the Technology and Consumer Electronics industry? Download the Technology Annual Report for FREE now at SponsorUnited.com.

MLB 2021 Report

DOWNLOAD REPORT: https://sponsorunited.com/2021-mlb-report/

The SponsorUnited MLB 2021 Marketing & Partnerships Annual Report is here! Take a deep dive into the MLB 2021 partnership landscape in the most comprehensive report available in the industry. Download now for FREE HERE.