Now Batting, Microsoft Ramirez!
The Boston Red Sox announced yesterday that they would be testing uniforms with advertising in Japan exhibitions March 22 and 23 against the A’s.
It’s not known whether the A’s will wear ads on their sleeves, but who would want to advertise using the anonymous A’s as their canvas? It’s like spending your entire marketing budget on the Versus Network.
But with Boston’s announcement, it isn’t a question of if the larger professional sports leagues in the United States will advertise on their respective jerseys, but when. The idea has surely been brought up by owners in every league, but no one wants to be the first to break this particular seal, because the resulting public relations disaster wouldn’t be worth it in the short term.
If every sports fanatic in this country lived abroad for a year, it would be an easier transition for the owners here. Pretty much every soccer kit’s most prominent feature is a corporate logo on the chest, and those advertisements are almost as closely linked with the teams they represent as their home cities. Major League Soccer knows that fans of “the beautiful game” are desensitized to uniforms sullied by ads, and have already gone the way of their international counterparts. Of course the MLS doesn’t really exist, so whatever they do has no real effect.
This isn’t the first time Major League Baseball has advertised during Japanese exhibitions. The Mets and Cubs both wore ads on their uniforms in Tokyo in 2000, and the Yankees and Devil Rays wore “Ricoh” patches on their sleeves in 2004 at the Tokyo Dome.
So the Red Sox wearing “EMC” patches on their sleeves should more likely be considered a trend than a fluke – an unfortunate one, to be sure. The rest of the world may find our point of view quaint, but the vast majority of Americans don’t want to see MLB, NBA or NFL players looking like NASCAR drivers.
With ads between plays, behind home plate, flashing on scoreboards and generally everywhere, there have been two places free of commercialism in the sports viewing experience: the grass/turf/floor the players run on, and the uniforms the players wear. Enjoy it now, because it’s only inevitable that corporate logos will infiltrate each and every surface available during a game except the players’ actual skin … Until Lebron James is paid to get a Nike swoosh tattoo, that is.