Houston ADstros? MLB's Uniform Wrinkle For 2023 Includes Ad Placement! The Astros Have Done It Before
"Sew what!" you say? The move toward crass commercialization isn't new for baseball: The Astros (and others) have experimented with corporate uni logos before!
Ad Insult to Injury
Rest easy, Houston Astros fans. It’s either this or your ticket prices get hiked! Oh, who are we kidding? That’ll happen, anyway.
In one weekend’s two-game international series in Monterrey, Mexico between the ‘Stros and the Los Angeles Angels, May 4-5, 2019, one thing in particular left fans scratching their heads in bewilderment.
The familiar Ford Motor Car Company logo was crassly festooned across the non-earflap side of both teams’ helmets in this Mexico Series, convincingly swept by Houston with a combined 24-6 score. Similar helmets were seen in mid-April, 2019, when the Cincinnati Reds met the St. Louis Cardinals, also in Monterrey.
Ad: Fuel to the Fire
Any fears, in 2019, that MLB helmets (or uniforms, themselves) may soon look like a be-stickered NASCAR vehicle will be fully-realized in just a few short months.
In fact, according to FrontOfficeSports, Astros fans will be interested in knowing, “In addition to jersey patches for next year, MLB could reportedly introduce helmet deals in time for the 2022 postseason.”
It seems helmet logos have been MLB-approved for several years, but just for non-domestic games. JohnWallStreet.com explains:
“Sponsor logos have been permitted on MLB uniform sleeves and helmets – for games played outside of the U.S. – since , so this wasn’t the introduction of a new initiative, but with the success of the NBA’s jersey patch program and MLB playing more games abroad than ever before it stands to reason that sports business professionals are paying greater attention.”
Ad Hoc Report
Major League Baseball, according to a recent AP report, is moving ahead with plans for advertising on uniforms next season:
“The new labor contract agreed to in March allows teams to add uniform and helmet advertising patches. The San Diego Padres, in April, became the first team to announce a deal for 2023, with Chicago-based Motorola [on a $10 million-a-year pact]:
“…A revenue source that is significant enough that it is really impossible for the sport to ignore over the long haul.”--Manfred
“I think that [4-inch-square] patch advertisements on jerseys are a reality of life in professional sports,” Commissioner Rob Manfred told the Baseball Writers’ Association of America [July 19, 2022].
“That’s a revenue source that is significant enough that it is really impossible for the sport to ignore over the long haul. I think that’s the truth.”
Alcohol, betting, and media companies will not be allowed to advertise with this program.
In 2007, Major League Soccer became the first of the major North American leagues to allow jersey ads, and it didn’t take long for other leagues to catch up: The NBA started selling sponsorship logos for their 2017-18 season, and the NHL launched helmet ads for the 2020-21 season, and began jersey advertising the previous season.
Indeed, in August 2018, cell-phone startup ROKiT signed a four-year deal with the Houston Rockets in the team’s inaugural uniform naming rights effort:
Ad and Subtract
Knowing there’s profit to be had in selling ad space on otherwise clean and carefully-constructed uniforms seems to set baseball’s commercial future in cement, despite the hand-wringing from the “traditionalist” fan.
“The NBA’s patch sponsorship pilot program has far exceeded expectations,” JohnWallStreet reports. “All 30 franchises have found a sponsor, and the teams are raking in more than $150 million/year in revenue.
“Back in April 2016, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver projected patch sponsorships would generate +/- $100 million in newfound revenue – so the league has overshot its goal by +50%.”
In basketball terms, we would call that a slam dunk.
It should be noted that the task of selling that 2019 Mexico series’ helmet ad space was not left to the teams, themselves. MLB drove the deal with Ford, who parked their logos prominently, and the teams and players, both, shared in the propulsive revenues generated from the logo placement.
For international travel like what the Angels and Astros had to make for the Mexico Series, that revenue helped to offset some of the attendant costs.
Ad Content…And Discontent
Lots of thought, you’ll be happy to know, is going into the possible fan pushback for helmet and/or uniform ad placements.
“MLB reasons that the use of sponsor logos on uniforms abroad remains consistent with the tradition in those countries – which is true – but [Tony Ponturo, EVP at Turnkey Intelligence] suspects it’s also served as a way for the league to cautiously gauge the fans’ reaction before making a commitment to buck tradition here in the States, which of course, they’ve now done.
“Considering that the presence of corporate logos on the uniform has been a non-story in the NBA – fans who buy team jerseys are clamoring for replicas with the sponsor insignia be made available at retail – it’s reasonable to assume any initial pushback would quickly quiet down.”
If you’re a baseball fan in love with the traditional aspects of the game (hated when Wrigley Field got lights, ditched the ‘Stros upon their 2013 move to the AL, couldn’t stand the Oakland A’s and their yellow shoes, not to mention that kooky circus elephant!), make sure you dial your “initial pushback” setting to loud, persuasive, and obnoxious.
According to SportsLogos.net, by the way, MLB jerseys sold to fans at most retail outlets (beginning next year), including online options such as Fanatics and MLBShop, will not contain the advertisement patch. They’ll only appear on those purchased at team-run shops (such as those in the ballpark).
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