MLB Opening Day: Jersey Patches – Foul Or Fair Game?

The new MLB season is underway and with it a new era for the commercial side of the sport.

For the first time, teams can feature a sponsorship patch on the sleeves of their uniforms, opening up new opportunities for exposure and monetization. 

The MLB isn’t the first of the big American sports to introduce patches – they started in the NBA in 2017 and spread to the NHL when its current season started last October – and the league will certainly be hoping it can generate the kind of value the NBA has seen in recent years.

Seven teams and brands have signed up so far (listed below) but which performed best on opening day? With Twitter being the hive of discussion on big sporting occasions like this, we’ve been trawling through tweets to find out. 

  • Arizona Diamondbacks (Avnet)
  • Boston Red Sox (MassMutual)
  • Cincinnati Reds (Kroger)
  • Houston Astros (Oxy)
  • Los Angeles Angels (Foundation Building Materials)
  • Miami Marlins (ADT)
  • San Diego Padres (Motorola)

Motorola and Padres make the biggest impact

The clear opening day winners were Motorola and the San Diego Padres, who emerged from our analysis with the best quality score based on the Twitter exposure received.

As we’ll explain in more detail later in this article, the secret to their success is their clean and simple creative. A straightforward white ‘batwing’ positioned within a large black circle, it stands out again the Padres’ uniform and is instantly recognisable even at a distance.

We rank ADT (Marlins) and Avnet (Diamondbacks) in second and third respectively, and they too have bold creative that stands out.

Going for gold?

To celebrate the Houston Astros’ World Series win last year, jersey sponsor Oxy created a special gold version of their logo to adorn the Astros’ sleeve for the opening two matches of the new campaign. 

Their logo is typically a mix of bold blue and red, creating a striking contrast with the white of the Astros’ uniform and therefore standing out on video clips and images. 

With the opening game against Chicago White Sox attracting high levels of attention the logo was subject to plenty of exposure, but the lights of Minute Maid Park and white of the uniform conspired to make it almost undetectable.

Only in one post did the asset gain the kind of visibility the brand can expect during the rest of the season.

Source: Houston Astros

Creative is key

If the Astros and Oxy underlined the importance of color, other brands showed that layout and size are also vital. Reds’ sponsor, Kroger supermarket, and Boston Red Sox’s MassMutual gained strong opening day exposure through Twitter, but their logos simply don’t stand out enough to make an impact. 

Both brands’ logos feature small writing on a landscape patch and while that works well on perimeter boards and in close-up, it fails to capture the attention on a sleeve from the centerfield camera.

Look, for example, at how they compare to creative that leads with a handful of letters (like the ADT logo) or styled single letter (the ‘M’ of Motorola).

Source: Miami Marlins
Source: Cincinnati Reds
Source: mlb.tv

Missed non-live opportunities

Non-live content represents a huge opportunity for brands. We’re talking about roster/line-up graphics, locker room shots, videos of teams arriving at the stadium and other similar moments that aren’t part of the on-field events.

Content like this presents news-hungry fans with tidbits of information to satisfy their appetite in the hours leading up to a game, and is likely to not only be viewed and engaged with, but also shared far and wide.

Some teams saw the opportunity and made the most of it. Avnet, for example, took pride of place on the Arizona Diamondbacks’ roster announcement, while Kroger was prominent in the Cincinnati Reds’ post. 

Meanwhile, the Miami Marlins, who only announced their partnership with ADT a few days before opening day, delivered value through a brief pitchside video from their encounter with the Mets.

But not all teams took advantage, leaving key opportunities for exposure and value unrealised.

Broadcast presents further opportunities

Social cuts through the noise and presents key events in short-form clips, but it can also cut out some key exposure opportunities.

During our analysis, we’ve seen that the majority of the clips on Twitter are from the core centrefield camera angle that captures the action as pitches take place.

The angle is a distance away from the plays and so doesn’t present the close-up coverage some sleeve patches need to stand out. The larger, simpler logos (Motorola and ADT) are significant exceptions.

On broadcast, however, there’s more ambient coverage: most notably, close-ups of batters and pitchers readying themselves for the latest plays. These present sponsors with the perfect opportunity to gain high-clarity, high-impact coverage for even the patches with weaker creative.

Source: mlb.tv

MLB’s sleeve patches enjoyed a strong start to the season, but there’s still plenty for teams, brands and the league as a whole to learn.

As with the introduction of patches in the NBA and NHL, careful analysis of results and rapid responses to their learnings will be key to delivering strong returns and making sleeve patches the success their potential promises.

To find out how DataPOWA can help you understand the impact and opportunities of uniform patches, drop us a line at [email protected]