Financial details of the partnership weren’t disclosed, but it could be worth more than $10 million a year.
Detroit — The Tigers are officially a patchwork team.
The Tigers announced Thursday they have partnered with Meijer on a multi-year deal that will place the grocery giant’s logo on the team’s home and road jerseys, starting with Thursday night’s game at Comerica Park. This is the first corporate sponsor ever to appear on the Tigers’ jerseys; the Tigers did add the Nike swoosh to their jerseys starting in 2020, but that’s the logo of the jersey maker.
As part of the latest collective bargaining agreement between Major League Baseball and the players’ union, advertisements could start appearing on jerseys this season.
The Meijer patch will be on the left sleeve for right-handed batters and pitchers, and the right sleeve for left-handed pitchers and batters, so it’s best positioned to be seen on television. The patch will read “meijer,” in the same shade of blue as the Olde English D for the home jersey; for the road jerseys, “meijer” will be in white lettering over a blue background, with orange trim, to match the road colors. Meijer’s primary color is red, but the Tigers didn’t want to add another color to their classic uniforms.
“It was really critical to us not only having the right brand on the jersey, one that’s local that our fans know and love, but also the way that it looked on the jersey,” Ryan Gustafson, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Ilitch Sports & Entertainment, told The News on Thursday. “We wanted it to look seamless.”
Meijer officials, Tigers and Olympic officials and Tigers players Casey Mize (in a home jersey) and Matt Manning (road jersey) helped make the announcement at Detroit’s Meijer store at Eight Mile Road and Woodward Avenue.
With the Tigers and also recently the Braves — who introduced their “QUIKRETE” patch last week, to rancid reviews; social media already isn’t being kind to the Tigers’ announcement — 10 MLB teams have unveiled sponsorship patches this season, with certainly many more to come. The NBA and NHL have previously embraced the jersey ads — Meijer signed on as a helmet sponsor of the Red Wings in 2021; the Pistons’ jerseys have Flagstar Bank patches — while the NFL has not. Soccer teams long have worn sponsorships on their jerseys.
Financial details of the Tigers’ deal with Meijer were not disclosed, though it could be worth eight figures. The San Diego Padres’ deal with Motorola is worth about $9 million per year. The Red Sox deal with MassMutual is reportedly worth $17 million per year. The Mets’ deal with New York-Presbyterian Hospital could be worth $20 million a year. The New York Yankees reportedly are seeking a sponsorship deal in the $25-million-a-year range.
For a team like the Tigers — considered middle market — the money could be a critical windfall, especially given the economic uncertainty surrounding Bally Sports and TV rights. The Tigers still are receiving their TV rights payments, believed to be worth $50 million a year, but it’s unclear how long that contract will continue, as Bally Sports parent company, Diamond Sports, goes through bankruptcy proceedings.
“I mean, it’s certainly an element of it. We want to compete sustainably, and in order to do that, we need to have the resources to do it,” Gustafson said. “But for us, this is more than about the financial aspect of the partnership. It’s about the right partner. We couldn’t have found a better partner.”
Meijer has long been a sponsor of the Tigers, and as part of this new deal, the Tigers and Meijer have agreed to donate $100 for every strikeout by a Tigers pitcher to Meijer’s new “Strike Out Hunger” campaign. The money will go to Meijer’s Simply Give campaign, which has combatted hunger with $80 million in donations to Midwest food pantries since 2008, more than $8 million of that coming from proceeds from the annual Meijer LPGA Classic. The donation figures to easily exceed $100,000 a season.
On Thursday, as part of the announcement, Meijer also announced a $5,000 donation to four Midwest food pantries, for $20,000 in total.
Meijer, the Tigers and Red Wings will continue to partner on the Hometown Holiday Assist program, which has benefitted Detroit families and non-profits during the holiday season for the last nine years.
Rick Keyes, Meijer president and CEO, made a point Thursday to note that Lena Meijer, wife of store founder Fred Meijer, was an avid Tigers fan, and watched games up until her death in 2022 at 102.
“Our histories have been intertwined,” said Keyes, who was joined for the announcement by several Meijer employees and area store managers, as well as PAWS, who wore a jersey with the new patch. “These brands really represent Michigan, which is what it’s all about. Our family really has a (long allegiance with) the Tigers. It’s been part of our family history to root for the Tigers.”
The Tigers and Ilitch Sports & Entertainment contracted with Elevate Sports Ventures on the jersey sponsorship.
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