Major League Baseball and its 30 teams generated $1.13 billion in sponsorship revenue last year, according to consultancy IEG and its Sponsorship Intelligence Database. It is poised to jump further with labor peace and new inventory coming to the sport.
“MLB and its clubs tend to do more traditional, apple pie-type sponsorships with the usual suspect brands and categories,” Peter Laatz, IEG’s global managing director, said in an email. “2021 saw refreshing change with some mid-season crypto wins, a banking partner replacement and a splitting of the beer category. The league can gain a lot of momentum as well, as it heads toward offering the jersey patch and helmet branding in 2023.”
Overall, IEG says sponsorship revenue was up 5% in 2021 and 25% from 2017. The caveat on the most recent year-over-year gain is that the 2020 total of $1.08 billion was based on the commitment of sponsorship rights for that season. The shortened 60-game season forced teams and leagues to adjust deals through extended term lengths, added assets or refunds.
Baseball’s $1.13 billion sponsorship revenue was derived from 990 unique brands and 1,640 total deals. The dollar total ranks third behind the NFL’s $1.8 billion and $1.46 billion for the NBA.
Teams drive the bulk of the sponsorship revenue on the local level, including 69% of the total in 2021. Next year, the 30 clubs will have a new lever to pull, after helmet decals and jersey advertising patches were approved in this month’s collective bargaining agreement. Teams are already shopping for partners, and the average deal is expected to approach $10 million, while big market teams, like the Yankees and Dodgers, could command more than $20 million.
The jersey patch deals are expected to top many stadium naming rights pacts, which traditionally have been the biggest sponsorship deals on the local level. A pair of stadiums got new monikers last year, as mortgage firm LoanDepot became the Marlins’ first naming rights partner since its stadium opened in 2012. American Family Insurance took over the naming rights in Milwaukee at the former Miller Park. IEG says teams generated $110 million in 2021 from their naming rights, but there are still eight MLB stadiums without a corporate name, including many of the league’s top brands, compared to only three for the NFL and one (Madison Square Garden) in the NBA and NHL.
Traditional categories—banks, beer, insurance, apparel, auto—were the five biggest in baseball last year, and each one had sponsorship spending of at least $75 million, according to IEG. The top spending brands were Bud Light/Budweiser ($65 million), T-Mobile ($55 million) and Nike ($50 million). The Swoosh spent twice as much as fourth-ranked Bank of America ($25 million).
MLB added a handful of new partners, such as Citrix, Extreme Networks and LoanDepot, before the season started. In June, it became the first major North American sports league to sign a deal with a cryptocurrency exchange under a long-term deal with FTX. It includes FTX patches on umpire uniforms. New additions in 2022 include Capital One as MLB’s banking partner, replacing Bank of America, and Corona Extra as its official import beer.