This, to the best of our knowledge, is a first: the Rockford RiverHawks (independent; Frontier League) are wearing uniform sponsor logos for every game, in a straight sale of sponsorship rights.
We're not counting auto racing, golf or MLS soccer and don't want to embark on a discussion of whether these are major sports; for the purposes of this discussion we're talking about pro baseball, pro basketball, pro hockey (though minor-league teams do indeed wear sponsor logos) and pro football. And while a sponsor logo occasionally makes its way on a uniform of the big four -- for instance, the two MLB teams participating in the season-opening series this year in Japan sported Gloops commemorative sponsor patches -- we're not talking about a logo that makes its way onto a uniform via a ballpark naming-rights deal. To the best of our knowledge there's been no pro baseball team that's donned them in a straight sponsorship.
The RiverHawks are wearing a Max Muscle patch where a name patch normally goes, on the back of the uniform. (You can see it above.) Every player wears the sponsor patch for both home and away games. No naming rights, no other sponsorship deal involved. Just a straight sale of the real estate on the jersey to the sponsor.
We're not going to get into a debate about the appropriateness of the sponsor patch: We're talking about an independent-league team here, and this isn't part of a a league-wide move or anything. The takeaway: this is a beginning. And with many teams and leagues pressed for money, look for a debate to emerge as to the benefits of wearing sponsor patches. And while we don't expect a major league to adopt sponsor patches, we won't be surprised if the discussions begin in other baseball minor leagues and maybe extend to the D-League as well. Truth is, professional sports now exist as marketing vehicles, and player uniforms are the final frontier in the marketing front.
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