NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Major League Baseball made official on Monday a new uniform deal that had been reported for two months: It’s linking up with Under Armour in a deal that, in 2020, will see Under Armour become the exclusive jersey-maker of baseball.
Gone will be Majestic, which had been MLB’s exclusive jersey producer since 2005 (and which last year re-upped through 2019). Gone will be Nike, which is currently a base-layer (i.e. undershirts) provider for MLB. Under Armour will now supply “all on-field uniform components.” New Era, which makes MLB’s caps, will remain in that role.
Playing an important part in this deal is Fanatics, the apparel company that already fuels MLB’s online store and makes officially licensed products. The new agreement gives Fanatics broader rights to make and market apparel to MLB fans. That includes everything from customizable jerseys to shirseys to postseason gear.
For Under Armour, whose popularity has skyrocketed in the past decade, this also marks a first — a pro sports uniform deal. Under Amour has made inroads in baseball in recent years by making gear such as batting gloves and chest protectors for catchers.
For baseball this could mean something else altogether. Its hip quotient could be on the rise. Under Armour is cool, you need only look around a high school in America to see that. Baseball, well, it’s always looking for help in that category. Linking up with a brand that teenagers like sure isn’t going to hurt.
It also could mean a different type of star power. To celebrate the new 10-year partnership with MLB, Under Armour has planned a swanky media event for Monday night and flew in many of its top endorsers in MLB. Clayton Kershaw, Francisco Lindor, Rick Porcello and Brandon Phillips will be in attendance, as will MLB legend Cal Ripken and Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn, who is an Under Armour-sponsored athlete.
— Under Armour (@UnderArmour) December 5, 2016
This is a fairly splashy — and not typical — move by baseball’s standards. The Winter Meetings, which are happening this week in the Washington D.C. metro area, aren’t generally the place where baseball stars show up unless the rare case where they’re a free agent closing a deal in person. But Under Armour, which is based in Maryland, is trying to announce its presence in style.
Under Armour’s endorsement strategy the last few years has been to grab onto a sport’s biggest rising star. In the NBA, that’s Steph Curry. In the NFL, it’s Cam Newton (though Under Armour’s roster also includes Tom Brady and Julio Jones, among others). In MLB, Under Armour signed Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper to a 10-year deal earlier this year, which is reportedly the richest of all time in baseball.
Majestic, by most accounts, was well-liked by players and fans. But it doesn’t have the clout of Under Armour and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred seemed to acknowledge as much in the announcement of the new deal.
“Under Armour’s marketing ability and brand status are a perfect fit to showcase our players and provide an even stronger connection between our game and its young fans and players,” Manfred said. “We appreciate Majestic’s many contributions to our clubs, players and fans throughout our partnership.”
You need only look at social media to see the difference between Majestic and Under Armour. Majestic has 150,000 fans on Facebook. Under Armour has 5.4 million.
This is another example of MLB trying to make its apparel more modern and hip. Earlier this year, it announced a partnership with Stance, a sock-maker best known for its work with the NBA and its pop culture offerings. Stance will take over as MLB’s official sock in 2017.
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