New MLB CBA Will Allow Uniform Sponsorships | Arent Fox Schiff

On March 10, Major League Baseball (MLB) and the MLB Players Association agreed to the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement, ending a 99-day lockout that was MLB’s first official work stoppage since 1994. Under the new CBA, both parties agreed to allow MLB teams to sell advertising placements on team jerseys and players’ batting helmets.

The addition of Uniform Ads creates an exciting new opportunity for a sponsor or brand to secure rights to a prominent, highly visible sponsorship asset on TV. The allure of significant brand exposure afforded by these assets equates to sponsorship value – in terms of brand exposure and association – generally considered second only to the venue’s naming rights partner. And from an MLB team’s perspective, adding uniform ads creates an extremely lucrative source of additional sponsorship revenue.

MLB is the third American professional sports league in just five years to open the door to uniform advertising. The NBA jersey patch program, which began in 2017, reportedly generated an estimated $225 million in additional sponsorship revenue for NBA teams during the 2021-22 season. The NHL began allowing helmet sticker ads for the first time this season, and it reportedly generated about $100 million in additional annual sponsorship revenue for NHL teams. The success of the NHL’s helmet sticker program proved so valuable that the NHL would allow NHL teams to also sell jersey patches beginning next season. Finally, MLS – which implemented forward jersey ads in 2006 – launched a four-year pilot program to add straight shirt sleeves in 2020 to uniform advertising space. The NFL is now the only major American professional sports league that has not announced plans to allow any form of uniform advertising.

Specific details of the MLB Uniform Sponsorship Program have yet to be released. However, with initially reported estimates that jersey crest and helmet decal sponsorships will generate over $170 million in additional annual sponsorship revenue for MLB teams, it would not be surprising if MLB are quickly beginning to take advantage of this new opportunity once it is cleared under the new collective bargaining agreement.

Neal T. Doss