If you’ve seen a new MLB uniform unveiling or an introductory player press conference this winter, you’ve likely noticed that the Nike swoosh now can be found prominently on the front chest of every jersey across the league. The addition of the swoosh comes as Nike takes over as MLB’s official uniform outfitter. It is part of a 10-year deal that began this offseason. Majestic had previously handled MLB uniforms.
Plenty of people aren’t happy with Nike putting their logo on the front of every jersey, especially when it comes to some of the timeless classic uniforms like those belonging to the Yankees and Cardinals. Some think the swoosh could have less intrusive placement, like on a jersey sleeve, while others want it gone completely.
But MLB will weather the storm and have few regrets regarding their decision if the financial reward is anywhere near what it’s expected to be. According to the New York Post, the 10-year agreement between Nike, MLB and Fanatics is valued at over $1 billion.
In addition to the monetary benefit, it’s also believed that the unavoidable presence of the swoosh on MLB uniforms is going to help the league appeal to a younger audience.
“Demand is up significantly based on adding the swoosh to the uniform and is bringing in younger consumers to the sport and a marketing halo from Nike,” Fanatics founder and executive chairman Michael Rubin told the Post
Purists may be up in arms over the swoosh, which is the first manufacturer’s logo to ever grace the front of a MLB uniform, but they should probably get used to it. Not only is Nike’s logo unlikely to go anywhere, but it will likely lead to MLB putting additional branding on jerseys in the near future. MLB executive president of business and sales Noah Garden said it’s “inevitable” that jersey patch sponsorships are coming.
“We’re examining the patch, but clearly we have things to work through first,” said Garden, via Sports Business Daily. “I’d say it’s inevitable down the road, but certainly not immediate. This is something that requires a fairly long runway. There are lots of things to take into consideration, but I think we will get there.”
It’s believed that jersey ad patches could arrive as soon as 2022, when the league enters a new labor deal with the MLBPA. As the league seeks to lay the groundwork for jersey sponsorship, players could use it as a bargaining chip in CBA negotiations as a way to gain concessions.
That means MLB would be following a similar path as the one the NBA has taken in recent years. Nike became the official outfitter of the NBA in 2017 and made sure the swoosh was prominent on the front of jerseys. Soon thereafter, the NBA also saw a rise in jersey sponsorships. The jerseys ads were initially met with resistance from fans, which is to be expected, but the pushback eventually died down. Fans got used to is. As of 2019, all 30 NBA teams have a sponsorship patch on their jersey.
It seems fair to expect a similar sort of progression with MLB, though the resistance may be a bit stronger considering the prominence of baseball purists. It’s a sport that’s heavily rooted in history and tradition, and one that doesn’t have a fantastic track record of being progressive or kind to change.
But whether you like it or not, baseball jerseys are changing. Tht little Nike swoosh may just be the beginning.