Terry Lefton of Sports Business Journal reports that Major League Baseball is working on adding advertising patches to uniforms, not unlike the uniform patches that have created a windfall for the NBA. Advertising patches on uniforms would require approval from the MLB Players Association, likely when the next collective bargaining agreement is agreed upon. The current CBA is set to expire on December 1, 2021.
MLB executive vice president of business and sales Noah Garden said, “We’re examining the patch, but clearly we have things to work through first. I’d say it’s inevitable down the road, but certainly not immediate. This is something that requires a fairly long runway. There are lots of things to take into consideration, but I think we will get there.”
According to Lefton, NBA teams have seen an average of $7 million in additional advertising revenue per year as a result of the patches. According to an insider Lefton spoke to, MLB teams should see an additional $6-8 million per year from the advertising patches.
This is not at all an unexpected development. MLB has set revenue records year over year, but the league is always looking for ways to diversify its revenue streams, as it were. With player salaries generally depressed as a result of a stagnant free agent market, it will be interesting to see how fiercely the MLBPA fights for a bigger chunk of the advertising pie.
It will also be interesting to see if and when the advertising patches trickle down to minor league uniforms. Minor leaguers, as has been frequently established here, are severely underpaid and are not represented by the MLBPA. Minor leaguers could become walking billboards and not see an extra penny for it. MLB spent millions of dollars lobbying to exempt minor leaguers from the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, preventing them from being owed a minimum wage and overtime pay. MLB’s effort was successful. Minor leaguers have already been used for advertising — the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (the Phillies’ Triple-A team) had players wear uniforms with a picture of a GEICO camel back in 2015, for example.
The patches aren’t distracting, at least the way they’re implemented on NBA uniforms. It won’t take away from the game much, if at all. The concern, really, comes down to the players getting their fair share.