According to a recent study, an MLB sleeve patch would be seen almost three times more than the current ads sewn on NBA jerseys. That exposure time could be worth as much as $11 million per MLB team annually.

MLB sleeve patch worn in London series
The Red Sox and Yankees wore Biofreeze sleeve patches and Mitel helmet stickers during this year’s London series. (Image: Getty)

The NBA started a three-year jersey ad pilot program in 2017. So far, it has been a resounding success. But the MLB could do even better, based on a recent study conducted by Nielsen Analytics.

The study, reported by Adweek, used a proprietary computer vision system to track the patches on players’ sleeves, as seen by television viewers, during MLB’s international games. The MLB currently prohibits uniform ads in the United States. Sleeve patches, however, were on display for MLB’s London and Tokyo series.

In London, the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees wore patches featuring Biofreeze, a menthol-based pain relief product. In Japan, the Oakland A’s wore MGM Resorts patches while the Mariners wore a patch featuring Eneos, a Japanese petroleum company.

Mo Patch, Mo Money

Nielsen estimates that MLB sleeve patches would be seen 289 times for a total of 12 minutes per game. In comparison, NBA jersey ads are seen an average of 112 times for a total of 4 minutes and 41 seconds per game.

There are also nearly twice as many games in baseball season. The MLB plays 162 games per season versus the NBA’s 82 game season. NBA has about a 20% more television viewers per game. But NBA ratings have been slipping over the last couple of years.

Baseball players are also stationary for longer periods of time. So MLB sleeve patches are better scene by the television audience. Jon Stainer, managing director of Nielsen Sports Americas explained to Adweek, “There’s a lot of focus around the batter, and so therefore, a lot of still shots of the better preparing to face the ball.” You can clearly see the patch every time “the camera zones in on the batter in the center of the screen.”

There are a range of estimates on the financial benefit to MLB if it adopts sleeve patches. Nielsen estimates it will bring in $11 million annually per MLB team, Meanwhile, Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment thinks it will be somewhere between $6 million and $8 million per team.

Is MLB Ready to Go Full NASCAR?

Major league sports have been slow to adopt uniform ads. Even if the MLB adopts a sleeve patch, it will take at least three more years to see one at a U.S. ballpark. For one thing, it will have to get MLB Players Association approval. The current collective bargaining agreement runs through December 1, 2021.

The NFL is even further behind the curve. Although it has had jersey ads on practice uniforms for roughly ten years, game jerseys are still a non-starter. A league spokesman recently told SI’s Monday Morning Quarterback, “Never say never, but there are no current plans to pursue or explore.” The NFL’s collective bargaining agreement ends after the 2020 season. So if there is any progress on jersey ads, it would have to be made by then.

Of course there is one U.S. major league sport that wrote the book on ad placement. Ads on NASCAR cars — sometimes called 200 mph billboards —  run from $250,000 to $35 million, depending on the placement. But they aren’t NASCAR’s only sponsors. Each team also has dozens of “in-kind” sponsors, providing all the equipment needed to keep the cars in race condition.

In fact there are so many NASCAR sponsors, it can take hours after a race for the winning driver to acknowledge them all. Here’s a video featuring what the drivers have come to call “the NASCAR hat dance.”

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