If a recent Sports Business Journal report proves accurate, wireless service provider T-Mobile has renewed its decade-long partnership with Major League Baseball for another five years.
Although that news comes as no surprise, SBJ reports an addition to the sponsorship that is noteworthy: rights to associate T-Mobile and its 5G network “as an underlying and integral technology for when MLB moves to robotic ball and strikes, which is likely for the 2024 season.”
That connection harkens back to the early days of the partnership when T-Mobile touted its role through magenta-colored phones in MLB dugouts. The underlying message being the league trusted the carrier’s reliability for critical calls to the bullpen.
But since then, T-Mobile has used MLB and its other sports and music sponsorships mostly to showcase itself as the carrier that provides more perks to subscribers, leaving competitors AT&T and Verizon to showcase their 5G tech through their own league, team and entertainment partnerships.
T-Mobile has been best known by consumers for giving “free stuff” as part of its subscriptions, most notably Netflix access, but also leveraging sponsorships to provide rewards. In what has become one if its most popular perks, since 2019 T-Mobile has provided subscribers with season subscriptions to MLB.TV and the MLB At Bat app’s premium features, a $150 value.
In the three years since completing its merger with Sprint to become the second largest wireless provider in the U.S., T-Mobile has promoted the strength of its mobile network more than in the past, so incorporating 5G activation into its MLB deal makes sense and aligns with key tenets of the company’s sponsorship strategy: ownable platforms that align with brand identity; eliminating consumer pain points through activation; ensuring activations are culturally and creatively relevant to the property; and defining success and performance metrics at the start of each partnership and activation.
T-Mobile last renewed its largest sponsorship in March 2019, re-signing for four additional years with MLB and adding a sponsorship of Little League Baseball. That renewal came just three months after the company added its second major U.S. venue naming rights deal (following T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas), signing a reported $87.5 million, 25-year deal to take over the naming rights of the hometown Seattle Mariners stadium.
T-Mobile Park will host this year’s MLB All-Star Game, including the T-Mobile Home Run Derby, on July 11.