For two years, National Basketball Association teams have sported advertising patches on their uniforms and reaped millions in marketing revenue. Reportedly, Major League Baseball won’t be too far behind.
Multiple MLB teams have reached out to ad agencies for evaluations and pricing estimates in anticipation of the league adding uniform patches, according to Terry Lefton of Sports Business Journal.
The earliest time MLB could put patches into use is likely the 2022 season, as the MLB Players Association would have to approve their use during the next round of CBA negotiations. Still, at least one league executive described the addition as “inevitable.”
From the Sports Business Journal:
“We’re examining the patch, but clearly we have things to work through first,” said Noah Garden, MLB executive vice president of business and sales. “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.”
Given how much MLB teams stand to make from a little square smaller than a cocktail napkin, it’s easy to see why some are already preparing for the change.
MLB ad patches: It’s all about the money
According to research cited by the Journal, NBA teams are reaping an average of around $7 million per team thanks to a 2.5-inch-by-2.5-inch patch on every player’s chest.
Already, that’s enough money to cover a decent player’s salary for any team. There’s also reason to believe MLB teams could make even more money than the NBA with uniform patches. Among the reasons cited are the abundance of game broadcasts (162 per team vs. 81 in the NBA) and the more stationary nature of the sport. It’s a lot easier to see a patch on a batter preparing for the next pitch than a point guard zipping down the court.
On the other hand, one researcher that spoke with the Journal said that they found 75 percent of the patch’s marketing value came through digital content and social media, an area where the NBA tends to have a leg up on baseball.
Whatever the exact price turns out being, it’s hard to see teams and players turning that kind of cash down. The NBA has already seen a nine-figure spike in its advertising revenue since it added the patch.
More than any of the other major North American sports, baseball prides itself on tradition. Therefore, nearly every change to the sport and its periphery is bemoaned by a decent chunk of fans, and the addition of a random enormous company’s logo to uniforms that have barely changed over the decades, like the New York Yankees’ and Los Angeles Dodgers’, would likely be met with considerable backlash. But probably not enough to matter.
Tradition can only survive for so long when there’s a chance to make millions of dollars by doing almost nothing. As one Boston Celtics player succintly put it when a General Electric logo was being added to the team’s classic uniforms: “I like free money.”
Yankees and Red Sox already gave it a shot in London
Funnily enough, several baseball fans have already seen MLB teams sporting uniform ads. Earlier this season, the Yankees and Boston Red Sox, who both have some of the most timeless uniforms in sports, wore Biofreeze patches on their sleeves during the London Series.
You can see the small green patch on Xander Bogaerts’ left arm below.
Incidentally, Biofreeze is also the uniform sponsor of the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers.
Hitters additionally sported a large Mitel logo on their helmets, as seen on Aaron Judge’s.
Clearly, MLB has a few options when it comes to ad placement on its uniforms. It could opt for somewhere on the chest like with the NBA. The London Series also showed what it looks like to have ads on sleeves, which usually have various changing patches, and helmets. And, as some fans probably still hope, the league could still opt to put them nowhere at all.
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