— Houston Astros (@astros) February 9, 2023
As we all know by now, I hate when a uniform advertiser is referred to as a “patch partner,” or a “jersey partner,” or a “jersey entitlement partner,” or similar nonsense terms. It’s bad enough when teams do this, as the Astros did yesterday (see above), but what really gets me is when journalists and media outlets parrot this same newspeak. Shouldn’t they know better? Are they just toadying in order to preserve their access? Are they just lazy?
So yesterday I decided to be more proactive and ask some reporters about how they handled the language of the Astros’ uniform ad. My method was admittedly unscientific: First, I Twitter-searched for reporters and media outlets that tweeted about Houston’s new ad patch. If they didn’t refer to the ad as an ad, or to the advertiser as an advertiser, I DM’d them to ask why. I used this basic form letter:
Hey! Paul from Uni Watch here. I’m working on a piece about the language surrounding the new MLB ad patches.
With that in mind, I’m curious about why you chose to use the term “patch partner” [or whatever the person tweeted] in your tweet today about the Astros, instead of “advertiser” or “patch advertiser” or some other construction based on advertising.
Any insights you can provide would be welcome and appreciated. Thanks!
I also included the URL of their tweet, so they could see what I was referring to.
This experiment didn’t end up generating as much dialogue as I had hoped, in part because several of the reporters in question have their DMs closed (which seems nuts for a reporter, but that’s a separate issue). Still, it was an interesting exercise. Here are the tweets in question and the responses to my inquiries:
Astros reveal that their jerseys will also have a sponsored patch on them this season
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) February 9, 2023
Response: “Oh honestly no idea haha. Just thought that was the best way to explain 🤣”
Astros announce a jersey patch addition to their uniforms: pic.twitter.com/LXNCuKiK7Z
— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) February 9, 2023
Response: Did not respond.
— Greg Rajan (@GregRajan) February 9, 2023
Response: “Hi, Paul. I didn’t write that tweet. It’s autotweeted off an RSS feed and takes the headline from the story. Matt Young, the guy who wrote the story, can probably best answer your questions. Hope that helps.”
The Astros, who are adding an Oxy logo to their jerseys, are the sixth MLB team so far to reach a deal on a jersey patch. Financial details aren’t known yet, but the Red Sox got $170 million over 10 years from MassMutual. https://t.co/OZWLRTJ6so via @houstonchron
— Matt Young (@Chron_MattYoung) February 9, 2023
Response: “Hey, Paul. I use the Google Trends site. It allows you to compare different words or phrases and see which ones people Google the most often. So I tested a few and ‘jersey patch’ came out ahead of ‘uniform patch’ and ‘ad patch’ (and a few others I tried). Definitely not scientific, but it’s what I use when I’m unsure what people are calling something. This is one I could definitely see changing since it’s so new.”
The @astros’ inaugural patch partner will be Occidental Petroleum, Oxy. The Astros will wear @WeAreOxy patches with the company’s red and blue colors all season. The OXY patch will be gold when the Astros wear their gold championship jerseys. pic.twitter.com/4NcRvZ7Udo
— Jose de Jesus Ortiz (@OrtizKicks) February 9, 2023
Response: DMs not open.
— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) February 9, 2023
Response: DMs not open.
— Jason Bristol (@JBristolKHOU) February 9, 2023
Response: DMs not open.
Obviously, the most interesting response was from Matt Young, who’s basically using his choice of wording as a form of SEO — a fascinating answer that I didn’t anticipate. It’s a bit troubling, though, because (a) it essentially creates a self-reinforcing feedback loop, where an inaccurate phrase becomes entrenched, and (b) it cedes the initiative to the teams, because a team will always be the first party to describe its own ad patch, so the team can basically use absurd corporatespeak that immediately becomes established as the default. Hmmmmm.
Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that some reporters — including my buddy Chris Creamer — used more accurate verbiage:
Houston Astros announce they’ll wear an advertisement on their jersey sleeves for OXY in 2023.
— Chris Creamer (@sportslogosnet) February 9, 2023
Advertising is coming to the Astros uniforms this year. Oxy will be on the right sleeve of the uniforms.
— Michael Connor (@MC790) February 9, 2023
The Astros will wear jersey patches on their sleeves this year advertising for Oxy.
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) February 9, 2023
Kudos to those three guys. Here’s hoping more reporters follow their lead.