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However, the company had billions of reasons to make the deal in spite of the baseball purist’s objections.
The deal between MLB, Nike and retailer Fanatics is valued at more than $1 billion over 10 years, the New York Post reported Wednesday, citing sources. Fanatics founder Michel Rubin told the newspaper that the deal is already bringing younger customers to the sport – something that baseball has struggled with.
“Demand is up significantly based on adding the swoosh to the uniform and is bringing in younger consumers to the sport and a marketing halo from Nike,” Rubin said.
Nike-branded jerseys at MLBShop.com are selling for $359.99
It is the second time over the last few seasons that MLB has eased advertising onto teams. All 30 clubs have had the New Era logo on the side of their caps since 2016. Most teams have also printed other manufacturer logos on jersey sleeves, while the New York Yankees were allowed to opt out of that rule for “tradition,” according to the newspaper.
Adding the Nike logo to uniforms could be seen as MLB dipping its toes in the water before ad patches come to uniforms. According to the Sports Business Journal, MLB could start adding uniform ad patches at the start of the 2022 season, but it would have to be approved by the players association in the next round of collective bargaining agreement negotiations.
However, branding in baseball has not been all rosy.
MLB was met with significant pushback in 2004 when it planned to put artwork on bases advertising the movie “Spider-Man 2.” Former MLB commissioner Fay Vincent was among those who called the marketing plan “inevitable but awful,” according to ESPN.
MLB reversed course and kept the advertising to signage around the ballpark and trailers on videoboards.