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Major League Baseball (MLB) worked through a labor dispute with the Players’ Association and struck a new Collective Bargaining agreement (CBA) that kept the league from losing games. It is a week later than anticipated, but today marks opening day for baseball. This did not stop MLB from being extremely active this off-season in developing new partnerships. Although fans scrutinize the sport for its pace of play and current standard of entertainment, this has not stopped major corporations from becoming official partners of America’s pastime.
- League Partnerships
The league will open up this season with 41 officials sponsors, which is three more than last year where it was reported MLB recorded its highest annual sponsorship revenue in history. Five first ever selections include Mattress Firm (the official sleep wellness partner); Corona (the official “cerveza,” or imported beer); and Dairy Queen (the official treat). The league also found a new official bank in Capital One Bank, which will also take over for YouTube as the official presenting partner of the World Series.
The league has also expanded its TV footprint by partnering with AppleTV+. Through this platform the league will stream “Friday Night Doubleheaders”, where there will be pre and postgame coverage, along with “MLB Big Inning,” a live show featuring highlights of every weeknight game during the regular season. This accomplishes a goal of the leagues to have a platform that provides fans with a single space to see all of the most exciting action throughout the league on a given day. Another streaming service the league paired with is NBC’s Peacock. The plan for Peacock is to supply a Sunday morning game with pregame and postgame coverage. Expanding the platforms baseball can be viewed will only give fans more of an opportunity to watch the sport, in the hope it will lead to increased viewership both domestically and internationally and be a means of avoiding local blackouts.
For almost three years now, Covid-19 has been a looming factor on all professional sports. The MLB was very cautious in its leaguewide protocols for protecting its players against the disease and they continue to be on top of these protocols by partnering with Cue Health, which will provide technology to assist with testing for Covid-19. Cue Health has signed on as the official sponsor of “Friday Night Baseball.”
Alterations to the league’s CBA providing for expanded playoffs, international play, added special events, streaming TV broadcasts, and most notably the ability for teams to add sponsor patches/sponsor decals to their uniforms and batting helmets have expanded the league’s marketing opportunities. The uniform patches will be sold by individual teams and are expected to first be seen in the 2023 season, while batting helmet decals owned by MLB have been rumored to see the field as soon as this postseason. League executives have been vocal about the partnership opportunities they have been presented since the new deal.
- Expanded Player Sponsorships
The league is not the only one seeing partnership advantages from the new CBA; individual players have been benefitting as well. All-Stars like Tim Anderson, Cody Bellinger, Bryce Harper and Fernando Tatis Jr., have been signed by Dairy Queen and will be entered into a fan contest that will determine the “Official Combo Meal of the MLB.” This sponsorship marks the first-ever national sports partnership for Dairy Queen. Another major partnership deal was signed by international star Shoehi Ohtani, who has become a global ambassador for FTX exchange, a crypto brand that allows versatile trading of crypto currency. Last year FTX was an official sponsor of MLB, and has now extended its relationship to individual players.
The league has faced public scrutiny on social media and sports talk shows, but the reality of it is the game is very profitable and continues to increase its profitability. Rob Manfred, like all other commissioners, takes a majority of this scrutiny, but he has done exactly what the owners ask of him: make the sport more money. With the streaming deals, MLB is likely to develop a stronger international footprint, along with its own version of NFL’s “Redzone” in its new AppleTV+ show “MLB Big Inning.” The sport is at a point of evolution in terms of entertainment value and will continue to change in upcoming seasons with sponsorship patches, potential rule changes, and increasing international play. The leagues’ increased marketing with big name corporate sponsors is a sign America’s pastime is on the right track to regaining that title.