- Major League Baseball increased its sponsorship revenue 12% year-over-year, and that number could go up slightly as the league closes its books now that the season has ended, Forbes reported.
- One source of the increase was the signing of eight new sponsors: Camping World, Coca-Cola, Doosan, Nathan’s Famous, Old Dominion Freight Lines, W.B. Mason, Google’s YouTube TV and 5 Hour Energy. The league also made structural changes to align its better business arms in a unification strategy that is internally called “One Baseball.”
- The league also added a new TV advertising opportunity via graphic overlays appearing over the batter's area in postseason broadcasts. The area behind the outfield is typically intentionally left empty so the batter has a clear view of the pitcher. For TV viewers, placing ad inventory on the batter’s area fits naturally, Noah Garden, MLB executive vice president of business, told Forbes.
While MLB's TV ratings are down, the league's games remain a draw for viewers and attendees. At a time when its getting harder to find consumers across the many different channels they engage on and when digital marketing is struggling with issue around brand safety, a lack of transparency and inefficiencies, brands clearly see an opportunity in partnering directly with the MLB, thereby ensuring they get their ads in front of fans, both at home and in the stadium, during an experience that is typically a happy one.
Of course, even sponsorships can be fraught with potential pitfalls, as NFL sponsors discovered this year. A number of players have been protesting during the singing of the national anthem by kneeling, causing Papa John's to reconsider its NFL sponsorship. A number of other sponsors are also having second thoughts about their financial commitments to the league, according to a report from Business Insider.
The MLB is innovating in sponsorship marketing opportunities, such as with the graphic overlay in the batter's area, which could be helping to attract brands. The YouTube TV sponsorship is notable because the brand was the first-ever presenting sponsor of the World Series. Along with extensive in-stadium signage and graphical branding when the games cut into and out of commercial breaks, Google ran a two-minute YouTube TV before the first pitch of game one of the World Series that included live content. The ad creative built on live commentary from the broadcast moving the view from the broadcast booth discussion into the ad with a camera view zooming out from on-field footage to a TV in a living room featuring the same actual live footage from the stadium.