Advertising on MLB Uniforms: Strike Out or Home Run?

The Boston Red Sox and Oakland A's will kickoff the 2008 MLB season with a two-game series in Tokyo March 22-23. The games will not only mark the only time the teams will play outside North America, but it will also be the only time their uniforms feature corporate advertising. The Red Sox have struck a deal with EMC, a Massachussetts-based data storage company, for ad patches on their uniform sleeves. Both teams will have logos of Japan's Ricoh Co. on their helmets.

Advertising on sports teams' uniforms is not unusual in countries outside of the U.S. In our country, ads have encroached seemingly every inch of space at our sporting venues except for players' bodies. Venues have corporate names and signage is everywhere from the turnstiles to toilets. Baseball is a sport steeped in tradition, and corporate logos on uniforms certainly is not part of that tradition! An uproar occurred in 2004 when MLB considered putting ads for the "Spider-Man 2" movie on bases for one weekend. It is highly unlikely that American sports fans will change their views just because uniform ads are accepted practice in other countries.

While there is no indication that MLB is considering allowing uniform ads, it may be testing the waters by allowing the Red Sox and A's to wear ads in Japan. The economic state of baseball is probably as good as it has ever been, so there is not an urgent need to tap into the revenue stream that could come from uniform ads. and considering the game has more important issues to deal with (i.e., steroids), allowing uniform ads would not be a wise move at this point in time. Link