The New York Yankees and YES Network have signed a sponsorship deal with TikTok, the popular short-form video app that President Trump is trying to ban in the U.S., according to a person with direct knowledge of the deal.
The Yankees and TikTok, whose parent company is Beijing-based ByteDance, have been working on the tie-up for about six months, said the person, who was granted anonymity because the matter is private.
The Yankees couldn’t immediately be reached to comment.
The deal will run into September and expire should Trump’s ban go into effect, the person said. If the company’s U.S. operations are sold, or if a court challenge to Trump’s executive order is successful, then the deal would run another two years, the person said.
Microsoft is in talks to buy TikTok’s U.S. business. Trump has said he would drop his opposition to the company if it were sold.
The original deal would’ve paid the team about $10 million, the person said. As part of the deal, TikTok will receive branded signs inside Yankee Stadium, which isn’t currently hosting fans during games due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Yankees, meantime, would get team-branded content on TikTok’s platforms, which have exploded in popularity with younger users.
The deal would give the Yankees access to the young demographic that has driven the platform’s popularity during the COVID-19 shutdown. Baseball’s audience tends to skew older.
Since emerging in 2017 following ByteDance’s acquisition of Musical.ly, TikTok is now more popular than Facebook among 13-16 year-olds. A study this summer found kids ages four-to-15 spend 80 minutes per day on TikTok, about five minutes shy of their average time on YouTube.
Major League Baseball has been searching for ways to speed up games in an effort to make the sport more appealing to younger audiences.
MLB’s television audience is the oldest among the major U.S. sports leagues.
Last year’s median age for baseball’s TV viewers was 59. The NFL, meantime, was 51, while the NHL was 50 and the NBA 43.
According to SensorTower data, the app set a record with 315 million downloads across Android and Apple devices during the first quarter. Total installs reportedly blew past two billion after the pandemic spurred increased engagement.
TikTok has gone on a hiring spree, including the addition of almost three dozen lobbyists in Washington, D.C.
ByteDance has denied that it shares user data with Chinese leadership, and the TikTok app doesn’t operate in the country. That said, Trump issued his executive order on Aug. 6, prohibiting transactions between U.S. citizens and TikTok’s parent company beginning in 45 days from its implementation.
Multiple U.S.-based organizations, including the Pentagon and Wells Fargo & Co., have asked employees to remove the app over security concerns.
Defending TikTok is its newly minted Chief Executive Officer, Kevin Mayer, who took over in May after serving as Walt Disney Co.’s top streaming executive. He also became COO of ByteDance after drawing plaudits for his oversight of the Disney+ streaming service launch.
The Yankees, winners of a record 27 World Series, are worth $5 billion, according to Forbes, second among sports franchises to the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys at $5.5 billion.