TicketManager | Crazy Quilt: Jersey Sponsorships Result in Patchwork of Deals

Spend any time with sports marketing professionals these days and inevitably the conversation turns to the glut of jersey sponsorship inventory currently on the market.

With baseball season around the corner and only six MLB teams having secured jersey patch deals, most of the talk is about who else will sign before opening day and at what price.

But there is still plenty of availability elsewhere, including in the NHL, with home and away jerseys doubling the opportunity for interested brands. Four NBA jerseys are available–including the New York Knicks at an asking price of $30 million a year—and another nine will open at the end of the season in June. In MLS, there is one front-of jersey sponsorship available among the 29 clubs—the Chicago Fire—as well as 15 right-sleeve patches. (The left sleeve position belongs to broadcast rights partner Apple TV.)

Given all that competition, some media observers and other experts have said the market has softened; that supply is outpacing demand.

But if you look at existing jersey-front and patch deals and the variety of brands that are involved, the situation appears far from dire for the teams and agencies out in the marketplace trying to do deals. In other words, while there may not be dozens of companies joining a bidding war to get on any particular team’s chest or sleeve, there are plenty of companies out there—many of whom may never have been involved in sports sponsorship—that view a patch deal as the opportunity they have been waiting for.

For example, looking at MLS and the half dozen MLB deals done to date reveals the diversity of companies interested in having ID on jerseys.

As the MLS season gets underway, 24 clubs return to the pitch with the same jersey-front sponsor as last year. The five new partners are UCHealth with the Colorado Rapids, UT Southwestern Medical Center with FC Dallas, Providence Health with Seattle Sounders FC, Purina with St. Louis City SC and Telus with the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Returning jersey sponsors include XDC Network, XBTO Group, Renasant Bank, LifeVantage, InterMedia Cloud Communications and Compass Minerals, along with four other health systems.

Two trends jump out from that list of more than half of MLS jersey partners: As the seven hospital/health centers indicate, local companies are top prospects. And with the exception of Telus, there is not another brand above that can be considered either a household name or a major sponsor in sports.

For the most part, MLB deals continue that movement. The Cincinnati Reds and Kroger, the Boston Red Sox and Mass Mutual and the Houston Astros and Oxy Energy are hometown deals; the Los Angeles Angels’ agreement with Foundation Building Materials and the Arizona Diamondback partnership with Avnet are both hometown plays, as well as first-time sponsorships for those companies. The outlier is the San Diego Padres’ deal with jersey patch aficionado Motorola.

All of that points to the fact that there are deals to be made out there, even if the pace of closing them is more akin to a trickle than a flood.

Those deals will likely not be done with the usual suspects. They also will range from agreements focused nearly solely on the jersey ID to multi-dimensional deals that include a plethora of other inventory—often raising the price from seven to eight figures. Some will come from current team partners, such as Kroger and Oxy, while others will usher new brands into the sponsorship realm.