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Study: MLB sponsorship income grows 5.6% to US$1.19bn for 2022

Sponsorship revenue poised to surge thanks to jersey patch inventory coming in 2023.

26 October 2022 Ed Dixon

Getty Images

  • Crypto brands bring in more than US$22m
  • Pep Boys has highest volume of new MLB partnerships

Major League Baseball (MLB) pulled in US$1.19 billion in annual sponsorship rights fees during 2022, representing a 5.6 per cent year-over-year (YoY) increase, according to a study by IEG.

The estimated figure, which covers MLB teams, venues and the league itself, was arrived at after sponsorship consultancy firm IEG tracked more than 950 unique brands. Spending on activation, media or player endorsements was not included.

The study reveals that the biggest spenders by sector were banks, beer, insurance, technology, automotive, telecom, apparel, betting/lottery/gaming, non-alcoholic beverages, mortgage and brokerage, and wine and spirits.

Brands writing the biggest sponsorship cheques included Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), T-Mobile, Nike, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.

Cryptocurrency sponsorships brought in over US$22 million in annual fees this season. New deals signed included the Texas Rangers with Trade the Chain and the Washington Nationals with Terra. MLB and the New York Mets already had existing tie-ups with FTX and Tezos, respectively.

Automotive service company Pep Boys had the highest volume of new MLB partnerships, having struck deals with nine teams: the Chicago White Sox, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Kansas City Royals, Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Angels, Miami Marlins and Minnesota Twins.

This year also saw MLB sign up Charlotte’s Web as its first official cannabidiol (CBD) partner, which will see the brand sponsor the 2022 post season as part of a three-year pact.

Other notable new MLB league-level partnerships in 2022 include Adobe, Capital One, Corona Extra, Cue Health, Dairy Queen, Distill Brands, and Mattress Firm.

While IEG described the sponsorship rights fee growth as ‘steady’, it added that MLB teams may experience a more meaningful bump in income next year. This is set to be driven largely by the league’s decision to open up additional inventory by giving permission for teams to sell jersey patch sponsorships from the 2023 campaign. The San Diego Padres were the first to capitalise on this new commercial opportunity, signing a deal in April with Motorola reportedly worth US$10 million a year.

IEG noted that what makes the MLB jersey patch an attractive asset is the duration of clear, on-camera exposure due to baseball’s pace of play. The consultancy also estimates that the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) move to allow jersey patches from 2017/18 resulted in combined sponsorship rights fees for teams growing 28 per cent from one season to the next.

“We are more accustomed to facility naming rights having the highest price tag and value return for brands that sponsor major sports teams,” said Peter Laatz, global managing director of IEG.

“However, when new and unique assets are made available, sponsors are quick to see their value. Early MLB jersey patch sales are showing they can attract significant sponsorship fees, some higher-than-average ballpark naming rights fees.”

IEG’s findings for MLB follow its similar studies for the National Football League (NFL) and the NBA. The former raked in US$1.8 billion in sponsorship rights fees for its 2021/22 season, while North America’s preeminent basketball league amassed US$1.64 billion across its last campaign.

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