Shohei Ohtani’s groundbreaking 10-year, $700 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers is a literal game-changer that’s poised to reshape the sponsorship landscape within both the National League (NL) West and baseball at large.
One of the most noteworthy trends to emerge during Ohtani's six-year tenure with the Los Angeles Angels: the surge in Japanese brands investing in backstop signage, not only at Angel Stadium but also at rivals’ ballparks.
More than 25 Japanese brands partnered with the Angels to advertise behind the plate during the 2023 season—over half of the team’s total behind-the-plate sponsors—as they moved to align themselves with one of baseball's most dynamic talents, and connect with Japanese viewers tuning in to see “Shotime” in action.
Ohtani's star power reverberated far beyond LA, as teams in the American League (AL) West seized the opportunity to capitalize on heightened exposure in the Japanese market. The Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners, and Oakland A's saw Japanese backstop ads nearly double in 2023 when Ohtani graced their home fields—underscoring Ohtani’s global influence and outsize commercial appeal across Major League Baseball.
As Ohtani’s move to the Dodgers continues to make headlines worldwide, will the NL West ballparks see a similar influx of Japanese backstop ads? Our data reveals that Japanese brands favor backstop rotating signage during Ohtani's time on the mound and at bat to maximize exposure—a trend that’s virtually guaranteed to gain momentum as his profile reaches new heights with the Dodgers, a big-market team that’s boasted the highest attendance in the league for ten consecutive years and counting. The Angels ranked second by number of backstop ads last season, while the Dodgers were among those with the fewest, thanks to a more selective approach. Time will tell how the “Ohtani Effect” will impact sales of this asset at Dodgers Stadium in 2024.
After adding a staggering 5M followers in the last nine months, Ohtani, who earned a reported $40M in endorsements this year, has cemented his status as the most followed MLB player on Instagram, with 6.5M—almost double the followers of the New York Yankees, the most followed MLB team. With his star sure to keep rising—and his sponsorship earnings expected to grow sizeably with his move—watch this space for more deal news as brands race to partner with this once-in-a-generation athlete.
While athlete endorsements can be traced back decades, pro sports players deals have only just doubled in the last three years. One primary reason is the increase in brands seeing value in working with athletes, and the impact of social media might also play a small role in this staggering jump. There has been a 55% increase in total brands doing deals over the last three years, up to 1,816 brands with deals across professional athletes in the 5 Major Pro Sports (MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL, NHL).
Player performance and social media growth can be pinned as the biggest factors tied to player deals. As one or both go up, so do the number of brands looking to partner.
No surprise, the apparel category has three of the top five brands ranked by endorsement deals. Nike, adidas and Jordan Brand come in at 1, 3 & 5 respectively. Within the emerging category of Crypto & FinTech, FTX, Cash App & Crypto.com all expanded their athlete portfolio with five or more athlete endorsements.
Instagram is the most popular social media platform for brands. With new features allowing consumers to purchase with just a click, brands are storming the platform with their athlete endorsements in tow. And while it may appear that all your favorite athletes have multiple deals, there’s still 64% of professional athletes (across the 5 Major Pro Sports) that have zero.
Almost ⅓ of all athletes with at least 1 endorsement deal, actually have 3 or more. While only 18% of brands with 1 player deal actually have 3 or more. Eight of the top 10 athletes in terms of total endorsements come from within the NFL, however, Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves, is tied for the #1 spot with Aaron Jones in terms of most endorsement deals across the Major 5.
On the final day of the NBA trade deadline, the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers pulled off a blockbuster deal trading James Harden for Ben Simmons among other players.
Simmons, who hasn't played this year, still ranks #10 in the NBA in total endorsement deals and has outperformed Harden in terms of branded post engagement, with almost 1% of his total followers liking/sharing/commenting on posts where he promotes a brand. Playing has its benefits, however, as Harden has grown his follower base by 129% this year, compared to 9% by Simmons.
According to SponsorUnited data, Nike and adidas lead the way in terms of sponsorship deals with NBA athletes. Similar to the overall NBA, the two brands battle back and forth to land more deals. In this instance, adidas has landed Harden while Nike has Simmons. BodyArmor, a Harden partner, and Verizon, a Simmons partner, both also are in the top 7 in terms of sponsorship deals while Verizon edges out BodyArmor narrowly.
Karl-Anthony Towns leads the way in the NBA with 16 endorsement deals followed by Trae Young with 13 followed by Jayson Tatum with 12. Lebron James has the most total social followers in the league north of 185 million with Steph Curry behind him over 60 million. Although Bron may take the lead in followers, Curry has a .91% engagement rate while Bron's is .38%.
NFL Conference Playoffs are taking place this weekend. The remaining NFL teams are only 1 win away from making it to the Super Bowl as the Chiefs host the Bengals, and the Rams host the 49ers in the NFL Conference Championship games this weekend.
Today's Lineup highlights 1 player from each of the teams with the most endorsement deals. Travis Kelce leads all athletes playing on Sunday with over 26 partnerships, edging out his super-star QB teammate, Patrick Mahomes, who has 22 deals. Kelce has deals with HyVee, Bud Light, Aaron, Sachs & Associates & Club Carwash.