- The Washington Times - Monday, August 4, 2003

Major League Baseball yesterday signed a series of licensing and merchandising deals worth a total of more than $500million, providing the game with an unprecedented amount of guaranteed money from the sale of jerseys, caps and other apparel.

The deals with Majestic Athletic, Nike, New Era Cap, Twins Enterprises, VF Imagewear, Dynasty Apparel and Drew Pearson International — will provide a minimum of about $3.3million per year to each club between 2005 and 2009, beating current outlay of guaranteed money by 70 percent.

Baseball’s merchandising business had been on the upswing for the past five years, fueled largely by the sales growth overseas and the introduction of numerous new products. But until now, MLB executives had not fully capitalized on that growth like the NFL, NBA and NHL.

“This is a very dramatic manifestation of how strong this sport still is,” said MLB commissioner Bud Selig.

The NFL has a 10-year, $250million deal with Reebok as the centerpiece of its merchandising and licensing efforts. The NBA has a similar 10-year, $200million deal with Reebok. The NHL is aligned with the Hockey Co., parent company of CCM, in a 10-year, $150million pact. Each of these leagues also has other deals to supplement its merchandising businesses.

MLB Properties and each team stand to gain another $165million over the life of the contracts if sales beat expectations.

MLB executives considered signing a large deal with a single major apparel and headwear supplier, similar to those of the other leagues. But after a lengthy review process with 14 applicant companies, MLB elected to keep spreading its licensing and merchandising across the seven firms.

Majestic will be baseball’s official supplier of authentic, on-field player apparel, including uniforms, batting practice jerseys, T-shirts and outerwear, eliminating rival apparel supplier Russell Athletic after next season. New Era Cap Co. will remain as the official supplier of player hats. Nike gains exclusivity to performance apparel like compression garments that wick sweat away from players. The other companies will split various key exclusivities to produce replica jerseys, T-shirts, fleece and hats for the mass consumer markets.

“We decided to stay with the companies with a demonstrated track record in our sport,” said Bob DuPuy, MLB president. “At the end of the day, this is about supplying our fans. We chose the companies because they have domestic manufacturing capabilities.”

The new deals will not result in any increases in corporate presence on player uniforms, as some feared. Majestic is allowed a patch of its logo on uniforms no bigger than 1 inch square. New Era does not have its logo on the outside of any player hats.

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