PHOENIX – In this new era of baseball where more teams are spending money, Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association agreed during its collective bargaining agreement in 2022 to allow advertisements on jerseys starting this season.
It allows for continuous advertising during the game without adding to the highly scrutinized length of baseball games, a problem MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is working to address.
Earlier this month, the Arizona Diamondbacks announced their inaugural jersey patch sponsor is Arizona-based technology company Avnet. Arizona became the third team to make its jersey advertisement announcement, following the San Diego Padres and the Boston Red Sox. The Houston Astros followed the Diamondbacks’ announcement with one of their own.
This move should not come as a surprise to baseball or Diamondbacks fans. Other sports already fully embraced advertisements on jerseys. Soccer, in America and across the pond in the more popular European leagues, primarily features an ad across the chest. Race cars in NASCAR are splattered full of company logos, most of which are just as big, if not bigger, than the car number.
Compared to the other advertisements in baseball, a patch on the jersey minimally impacts the viewing experience.
“This is not going to diminish the fan experience,” Power Sponsorship managing director Kim Skildum-Reid said. “There are other things sold around sports, such as the moving signage, that actually make it harder to watch and enjoy the game.”
Skildum-Reid mentioned the patch will be a small square on the uniform that will be hardly noticeable except for close-up camera shots on the players. The place where Avnet is going to get the most engagement is on social media and in public outings.
The National Basketball Association allowed jersey advertisements starting in 2017, and the results have been successful. Unlike MLB jerseys, which don’t offer sleeve options, ads are located in more prominent places below the shoulder. On the Suns’ Twitter or Instagram page, there is a good chance fans will see the PayPal logo on the jersey.
Additionally, Padres players repped their jerseys earlier this month in community events and at fanfest. Jerseys featuring a Motorola logo were seen by thousands in person and got hundreds of thousands of looks on social media posts – something that Avnet surely considered when partnering with the Diamondbacks.
“It was natural for us to partner with the Arizona Diamondbacks, a home-grown team that is as dedicated to Arizona and its communities as we are,” Avnet CEO Phil Gallagher said in a statement. “As a global company, we’re dedicated to serving the communities in which our employees live, work and play, and we are excited to support the team’s work on and off the field while collaborating to make a difference in our community.”
This partnership will go further than the jersey advertisement – Avnet and the Diamondbacks are hoping this partnership can help build a stronger foundation for STEM programs for youth in The Valley. They also want to create better experiences for fans at the ballpark and in the community.
“We are excited to partner with locally-based Avnet primarily because of our aligned values that include a real commitment to our employees and our fans (customers) as well as a dedication to making a difference in the great state of Arizona through our community support and investments,” D-backs President & CEO Derrick Hall said in a statement. “For more than a century, Avnet has been a home to good people who show up to make a difference in people’s lives through their products and services and community commitment.
“I look forward to making a larger impact in this state now that we are partnering with one of Arizona’s hidden treasures, Avnet. I want to applaud Cullen Maxey and Steve Mullins for their dedication and efforts to finding us a perfect partner.”
This patch is a black square on the sleeve of the jersey with the Avnet logo printed in white and teal and white text. In the video reveal, the Avnet patch was only shown on the white jerseys with black and teal while fans will have to wait to see additional color combinations. Fans will have to wait to see them on the other jerseys.
Initial fan reaction is negative – at least on Twitter – as it is oftentimes when there’s a change to the norm. Diamondbacks fans for a quarter century made their way down Jefferson Street or tuned into games and saw zero advertisements patched on jerseys.
Fans of all teams were up in arms about the patented Nike swoosh being added to uniforms ahead of the 2020 season, but most of those complaints have slowed after three years.
Similarly to the new jersey advertisements, Diamondbacks fans have also been critical of owner Ted Kendrick’s spending and the lower payroll compared to league average and NL West foes. Other teams might follow with jersey advertisements, but for now, Kendrick has some additional cash flow that he can potentially spend on his franchise that other owners do not currently have.
There is a chance that Turner opts to continue keeping the payroll low, but the Avnet jersey patches could become more welcomed by Diamondbacks fans if Kendrick increases the payroll to help bring playoff baseball back to Chase Field.