For some teams in leagues that have allowed advertising, such as the NHL, where helmet ads began appearing in 2020, brands aren’t always represented. In a recent game between the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames, neither team skated with a sponsor logo, Lukas noted. Several NHL teams have more than one helmet sponsor.
An MLB representative said details of its program — the size and placement of the patches, as well as whether they appear on helmets and not jerseys — were still in the planning stage. Among the issues likely to get the league’s attention would be limits on the type of brands that would be welcome to advertise. The MLB Players Association did not respond to a request for comment.
Online sports betting – which now dominates sports broadcasts – is currently banned from advertising on NBA jerseys. However, the NHL, whose teams will begin placing advertisements on team jerseys starting next season, is a different story. The first team to announce a deal, the Washington Capitals, will wear the Caesar’s Sportsbook logo. The terms of this agreement were not disclosed.
MLB team sponsorship deals appear to be for the regular season only, said Tony Ponturo, a former sports marketing executive for Anheuser Busch who is now a sports marketing consultant. He said brands could potentially come into conflict with official sponsors in nationally broadcast playoff games – and at other times, with players who maintain separate marketing agreements with brands. Budweiser, for example, at one time owned the infield scorer chart brand in most NBA arenas, but its brands were removed out of respect for Miller Lite’s rights as the league’s official sponsor. once the playoffs begin. (Bud owner Anheuser-Busch InBev is now the official MLB sponsor.)
Teams will also need to keep an eye out for reputational issues that may arise in sports that aren’t likely to occur in other environments. “I always thought if I put a Budweiser patch on the Red Sox and they came to New York, the local fans would tell me they wouldn’t drink Budweiser,” Ponturo said. “If you upset 15% to 20% of the fans because they don’t approve of the sponsor, you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it.
MLB has previously included advertisements on its helmets and/or batting uniforms only in certain games played outside the United States, such as playoffs held in London, Tokyo and Mexico City. And referees started wearing patches in the middle of last season, sponsored by cryptocurrency trading firm FTX.
“These experiments resulted in high visibility of the patch on broadcasts, and no real complaints from the teams, so [they were] successful overall,” Balvanz said.
Balvanz estimated that baseball teams could make new revenue “between seven and eight figures,” depending on the team, market, competition for the patch and other deal details.