Overall, as you would expect when it comes to a matter of uniform details, Paul Lukas is spot on with his analysis of the news that Major League Baseball teams are likely to add corporate sponsor patches to their jerseys in a few years.
“Simply put: We’ve lost,” Lukas writes. “This is the world we live in now. We can still critique it or call bullshit on it, but we can no longer forestall it.”
It’s something that’s been coming, and as Lukas also writes, “the NBA has provided a handy blueprint for them, so the logistical hurdles and emotional barriers will both be much lower for MLB than they were for the NBA.” While this is true, MLB also has been lowering those barriers itself for years: the future of corporate logos on baseball uniforms was the subject of my very first column for Dealbreaker, in which I wrote, regarding the since-scrapped plan for Under Armour to put a maker’s mark on jerseys (since-scrapped because it’s now going to be a Nike swoosh), “When the time comes that people are used to one logo, the calculation will again be easy for MLB: an outlandish sum of money will be worth accepting in exchange for another small patch of real estate on a uniform.”
When it comes to outlandish sums of money, well, the Boston Celtics proved it, just a few weeks after that, getting enough money from General Electric for a jersey patch to pay their leading scorer for a whole season. The Mets should at least be able to get enough out of this to cover Bobby Bonilla’s annual million-dollar payments (note: the much-maligned Bonilla deferred payments were smart business for both sides, lots of teams do similar deals, and the Mets just get mocked for it because #LOLMets), or maybe they can just arrange to put Bonilla’s face on their uniforms.
But when it comes to the “emotional barriers,” it isn’t just the NBA that’s helped pave the way for what’s coming in baseball. It’s partly baseball itself turning the experience of viewing a game into a cavalcade of advertising, even if you’re not watching on TV or listening on the radio, but at the actual ballpark. Larger than that, though, is the fact that so many sports fans have grown accustomed to seeing ads not as mere patches, but as the dominant branding on teams’ jerseys thanks to the rise in prominence in America of global soccer. Even if you’re not a soccer fan, per se, you’ve probably encountered ads for soccer on NBC or sat through your college roommate’s games of FIFA. The concept is foreign, but its ubiquity makes it not a foreign concept – and it doesn’t hurt that the same man is the owner of both the defending World Series and Champions League winners.
Now, so long as we’re here bringing stuff from European soccer to baseball, how about relegation so we can finally get the Orioles where they belong?