March 15, 2022
SBJ Atlas

Saving $412 million: Baseball’s deal restores game-day revenue opportunities across MLB ballparks

Baseball’s extra-innings work — salvaging a full 162-game season after initially canceling the first 184 home games of the 2022 schedule — effectively erases what team executives told Sports Business Journal would have led to a leaguewide loss of more than $200 million per week in April game-day revenue.

According to data previously provided to SBJ by industry sources and verified last week by team executives across a diverse set of markets, the league’s 30 clubs typically average about $2.25 million per game via the sales of tickets, food, beverages and souvenirs during the approximately 410 regular season games played from Opening Day through the end of April. Each executive agreed to address the topic off the record and acknowledged that the range of per-team losses is wide, based almost entirely on geography and whether or not the team plays in one of the eight ballparks that has a roof.

The league’s combined average attendance in April 2018 and 2019 (the two most recent seasons where ballpark capacities were not affected by the pandemic) was 26,281. That number increased by 12%, to 29,439, during games played from May to September. Additionally, per-person spending goes up during the warmer months, with average per-game revenue topping $2.6 million across the 30 clubs, a roughly 16% increase over April’s games.

“Fans are more likely to buy two beers in July than a single hot chocolate in April,” according to a concessionaire with multiple pro baseball clients.

The aura of Opening Day still has meaning to baseball fans, said several executives, and any delay, regardless of the reason, tends to negatively affect the attendance of the makeup date. In fact, each year from 2015-2019, Opening Day was the most-attended game of the season for more than half the clubs, according to an analysis by SBJ Atlas of MLB game-by-game data.

The potential loss of games would also have carried over to the league’s media partners, as brands could have sought other avenues for advertising. Scotts Miracle-Gro, an MLB partner since 2010, for example, earmarks nearly 100% of its annual TV advertising budget to run mid-March through late-May. Last year, 40% of its sports spend ran during baseball telecasts. So with many of the initially canceled games being rescheduled for later in the season, it will be too late for that brand to make up much of its lost exposure.

Brands spent $18.1 million advertising during MLB telecasts last April, according to an SBJ analysis of iSpot.TV data. Although “consensus” is not a word used much in today’s baseball climate — despite the signing of the new CBA — the executives interviewed did unanimously agree on one thing: It could be worse.

More games are affected by weather in the first month of the season than any other time in the summer. In April 2018, for example, 28 games were postponed due to weather. Or, as a longtime executive at one cold weather-based team eloquently put it: “April sucks.

Kershaw takes part in Raising Cane’s promotion

Free agent P Clayton Kershaw earlier this week surprised customers at a Dallas-area Raising Cane’s location by working the drive-thru window. The appearance “lasted about an hour and was described as a just-for-fun perk” for customers. The QSR is a “supporter of Kershaw’s charity,” Kershaw’s Challenge (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 3/9). SBJ Atlas notes Raising Cane’s ranks fifth among “dining” brands in total number of sports deals (SBJ Atlas).

SBJ Atlas: Top two golfers enter The Players with strong endorsements

Jon Rahm and Collin Morikawa, the top two ranked golfers in the world, lead a loaded   eld into The Players, and both young players have found success off the course with endorsements. Rahm’s most recent partnership comes via VistaPrint, a deal announced in January. Morikawa three weeks ago agreed to a multiyear extension with TaylorMade, which has been his official equipment provider since he turned pro in ’19. The two used to share common ground as Adidas endorsers until last season, when Rahm made the switch to TravisMathew apparel. For a deeper look at how your favorite athletes are performing outside the lines, sign up for a demo with SBJ Atlas.

Russell Wilson gives Denver much-needed social media star power

Russell Wilson, following his trade from Seattle to Denver, immediately becomes the Broncos’ most popular player on social media. His 5.6 million followers on Twitter dwarf the team’s young wideout, Jerry Jeudy, who until this week led the team with 190,000 followers. The team Twitter handle for the Broncos (2.6 million follower) is less than half of Wilson’s count, and no other pro athlete in the market has anywhere near the social footprint that Wilson does, according to social media data analyzed by SBJ Atlas.

Wilson will likely be shuffling what has been a Seattle-heavy endorsement portfolio. During his career, Wilson has had deals with three existing Broncos partners — Bose, Microsoft and Nike (all major national brands). But he has also signed on with Pacific Northwest brands that compete with Broncos sponsors.

Exhibit A: his deal with Alaska Airlines (the Broncos are linked up with United). Wilson also has had a deal to promote Xbox (the Broncos partner with Sony’s PlayStation). While Wilson signed a deal with DraftKings in 2020, the Broncos partner with FanDuel. For more sponsorship insights, sign up for a demo with SBJ Atlas.