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Because of Course They Are: MLB Planning for Pitch Clocks to Be Advertised

In a development that has basically reduced me to a sad puddle of exhausted laughter, Front Office Sports is reporting that the new pitch clocks may soon be sponsored advertised, wheee!

The FOS article suggests that high-end timepiece brands like Rolex and Timex may be among the likely advertisers, but fans already have other ideas:

Those are good, but I bet Uni Watch readers can do better. Post your ideas in the comments!

Comments (51)

    Oh no! A business is trying to create revenue, what a crime. If a company is willing to spend money, only an idiot wouldn’t accept. Its sort of how business works, but lets expect a major sports league to operate without any money.

    I know you’ve touched on the difference between uniform advertisements and those on your site, but I don’t think the argument is a particularly strong one. It basically sums up to “it’s just different”.

    It’s obviously your right to see them as different, but I’d love to know what you think the difference is.

    The main part of it is saying it’s fine where it “belongs” but not where it doesn’t. And media outlets are somewhere they belong but uniforms aren’t. Is that not just a long way to say “it’s just different”?

    The only reason you gave for the difference is that as revenue is the primary income for media outlets but ancillary for sports teams.

    I happen to think this is both untrue and a silly distinction. For one, the primary revenue of sports teams is advertising – just uniform advertising. They do make the majority of their money though through TV commercial sales (at least indirectly).

    Secondly, I think it’s just a silly thought to think that any business can only have one primary source of income. Like if a bowling alley’s primary income comes from renting lanes, is it wrong for them to also make money by renting you shoes or a locker or selling you food? After all, they don’t “need” the income because it’s not their primary income. Is it wrong for a movie theater to sell concessions because their primary income comes from tickets?

    I would suspect that you wouldn’t have a problem with either of those scenarios, which completely derails the argument that ancillary income is morally wrong.

    If you get rid of that, the rest of that article can be summed up as “it’s just different”.

    No one is arguing that a “major sports league should operate without any money.” It’s about billionaire owners, who don’t need this ad revenue, further ruining the aesthetic of the game by plastering any empty space with yet another advertisement.

    So the theory behind operating a successful business is to make as much money as you can. And the way to do that is by selling ads. Doesn’t seem like there was much consternation back in the 50s when images like this (from Ebbets Field) were commonplace.


    This opinion brought to you by Omega watches.

    Last I checked, there weren’t ads on the unis back then either. We should be able to draw a line somewhere and, I believe that line is crossed with uni ads.

    There’s a difference between making money and whoring yourself out where every goddamn thing is for sale.

    So as a business manager, I shouldn’t try to maximize revenue and profits? My shareholders won’t like that.

    Nice summation of the decisionmaking dynamics behind what Cory Doctorow calls the “enshittification” of modern commerce. link Selling everything not bolted down to the first person willing to pay you money is not in fact an example of maximizing revenue or profits. Making the customer experience worse is, absent a monopoly and a captive customer base, bad for a business’s medium- and long-term position.

    Now, any given American sports league does effectively have a monopoly position with a captive customer base, so it will be inclined to adopt the enshittification approach, just like Amazon or Google or TicketMaster. But they don’t have to! And what’s more, it’s not clear that there really is any meaningful benefit to either the league or any team’s bottom line. The league is profitable. Every team is profitable. But a team’s primary value as an asset to its owners is not week-to-week revenue or even annual income above expenses. It’s the capital appreciation – how much you can and eventually will sell the team for, minus how much you paid for it. Also how much you can borrow against it while you own it, and also how you can leverage team ownership to benefit your non-team businesses. And ticky-tacky cash grabs like selling advertisements around the pitch clock have no appreciable impact on team capital appreciation. So no, in fact, a competent business manager would not be obliged by the iron law of Maximizing Profit to sell the clock advertisement.

    And we can agree to disagree. Who is anyone to tell me what I can or can’t make money on in my business?

    I go back to the Ebbets Field “Right Field of Advertisers” link I pasted above, where there are 9 billboard ads plus “product Placement” of Bulova on the clock on the top of the scoreboard. Were there people in the 1950’s making the “too much advertising” argument? I don’t think there were.

    Who is anyone to tell me what I can or can’t make money on in my business?

    Actually, nobody is telling anyone that they *can’t*; but we’re all allowed to think they *shouldn’t.*

    Having the right to do something doesn’t mean you’re immune from criticism.

    You could get the company logo tattooed on your forehead too…I mean, if “maximizing profits for your shareholders” is really all that matters….

    Yes, the billboards were everywhere at Ebbets Field…but the players weren’t walking billboards, were they…

    There are all kinds of things MLB (or anyone else) CAN do to “maximize profits”…and there are SO many more avenues to do that nowadays that didn’t exist in the Ebbets Field days….but it’s NOT always about money. Sometimes it’s about the experience…the connection to the game…MLB has done a great job of maximizing short-term profits (given the balance sheets of some of their owners, despite what they want you to believe), but they’ve done a lousy job of connecting to an entire generation of fans like they used to…which is why baseball is now the #2 or #3 sport behind the NFL and NBA, instead of the national pastime it used to be.

    Of course, that doesn’t ALL come down to smashing advertising everywhere, because the NBA has done a lot of that too…but it’s part of it. The NBA has barely half of the history or tradition MLB has, so defiling a uniform with an ad patch doesn’t hit quite as icky as it does for MLB. I mean, I’m a Cardinals fan…a team with a tradition second MAYBE only to the Yankees. And I am CRINGING at the thought of an ad patch defiling a Cardinals jersey. But, living in Memphis, it didn’t bother me quite as much as when the Grizzlies had a FedEx patch on their jerseys (which they don’t have currently)…didn’t like it, but it wasn’t quite the same level of bother.

    Long story short, this is a perfect example of “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”.

    Agree with JRock. What’s more tiresome: the ads themselves or the incessant complaining about ads from uniwatch lol. Why don’t you just, idk…not report on these things if you hate them so much? Seriously – who would even notice if you didn’t bring attention to them all the time. I wouldn’t. These aren’t even uni ads we’re talking about at this point.

    When you see an opportunity to maximize revenue with minimal blowback, you do it. If these ads piss off an insignificant portion of the fanbase then clearly it’s a worthwhile endeavor. And that “pissed off” contingent probably won’t even put their money where their mouths are, I.e. refusing to buy tickets/merchandise. There is no legitimate reason for these companies not to sell this ad space and any business person would agree.

    You could mention the “integrity of the game” or the “art of the uni” but who beyond the 1000 uniwatch nerds actually CARE that much, or even notice???

    Uni Watch will continue to cover uni-related news and express commentary on that news — that’s what the site is about.

    If you don’t care about any of that, then maybe Uni Watch isn’t for you (which is fine, of course).

    Up to you.

    An ad for a toilet company would be appropriate. “When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to throw!” or something.

    “And that’ll be a UPS Automatic Strike against Machado. UPS: Just get in the box and deliver.”

    This pitch clock violation brought to you by Rolaids.
    Mets bullpen giving you gas too?
    Rolaids works in as fast as 15 seconds!

    Now, this is something I can see being a reasonable thing, IF it’s uniform across MLB, and by a company that, you know, actually deals in time. You slap a timex or whomever on it, it just kinda blends in. Like at the Olympics and horse racing. It’s there and you don’t ever see it. It’s just “oh, I guess that’s a Casio clock”. However with all the other ads all around, it just “ads” to the clutter. Now the uniforms? Nah that’s a bridge too far. I hate it in the NBA, especially now that I live in the home of the Goodyear Cavaliers. I am not looking forward to the cleveland clinic guardians.

    I know none of us are really fans of this but the NBA doesn’t have a sponsor for the shot clock, why does baseball have to be so money grubbing? Although me having written this down some NBA exec is going to just that having seen me write this down.

    In general, I assume the NBA is run by more confident people. The sell-every-possible-ad-get-every-dollar mindset of baseball speaks to an attitude of scarcity and fear. The NBA rarely gives off that kind of vibe; NBA execs seem more likely to speak and act like they expect the league to still be around and making money in 10 years.

    In particular, I wonder how much MLB execs are looking at global football rather than the NBA for clock/advertising models. Football added-time display boards are routinely bedecked with advertisements, usually for watch brands.

    You say this about the first major American sports league the sell ad space on their informs.

    And they sell ads on the top of the backboards and the underside of the scoreboard as well.

    The NBA is at least *as* guilty as MLB in plastering advertising everywhere that just might be in view of a camera.

    NBA stole that idea way back in 2016 when they partnered with tissot to make wireless shot clocks that included a sizeable “tissot” wordmark and logo in plain view on the front of the shot clock. Most visible timers in sports are “sponsored” by their makers to the extent that they double as visual ads for said maker with clear branding at the least. Omega, tissot, I believe victorinox and maybe Rolex come to mind.

    “And that’s a strike for the batter violating the Cologuard pitch clock: Cologuard! It’s easy. Just do your business in the Box”

    Today’s pitch clock brought to you by Preparation H. When a player is dealing with a pain in the a$$ like this clock, it helps to have some Prep-H nearby.

    Knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing holds fast these days.

    I’m not saying the NFL doesn’t go for the money-grab like everyone else, but they certainly don’t seem as desperate as these other leagues. They certainly have plenty of ads, but nowhere near the other majors. Does the NFL have more ad integrity, or are they just plain richer?
    Is the NFL like Radiohead… huge but not sellouts?
    This might be the dumbest thing you’ve ever read.

    Carson School of Song and Dance:
    Why limit yourself to the Hokey Pokey in the batter’s box?
    We’ll help you quickly find the correct pitch.

    WD-40’s carb cleaner:
    If you’re stalling too often, we can help.

    How many ads do they need to sell to finally end the dumb local broadcast blackout rule?

    The new rules make the game more exciting, even to old school baseball fans like me. The MLB is making the classic mistake of selling everything of what is basically an emotional (and financial) investment by fans and understandably that rubs fans the wrong way. My suggestion for the clock sponsor: a free sign promoting the training in handling defilibrators in public spaces via a local clinic or hospital. When every second counts.

    Disgracing the long-traditioned pitch clock with an ad?? Oh the horrors!!!

    As a few have written here, just because you have the right to do something doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.

    Somehow, sports fans–a class with highly-developed statistical and analytical skills–turn a blind eye to how badly we get ripped off by billionaire owners, leagues, and city governments relentlessly pouring taxpayer money into stadiums.

    Similarly, some here are ignoring the massive income from revenue-sharing, television contracts, public coffers, traditional advertising, merchandising deals, ticket sales, and corporate luxury boxes. Those Brinks trucks of cash dwarf uni ads profits.

    In 2023, the Boston Red Sox will receive $17 million to wear a uniform ad. They’ll spend $171 million on payroll. Their revenues last year were #479 million. The club is valued at $3.9 billion. Uni ad money? That’s not even finding change under the couch cushions. It’s finding lint and dog hair.

    Hence, it’s useless to even argue uniform advertisements on any level except aesthics.

    Uni Watch’s beautiful slogan is The Obsessive Study of Athletic Aesthetics. Objectively, uniform advertisements look like shit. That’s a straight-up aesthetic argument. While it’s fair to drag the issue into economics, remember, capitalism doesn’t give a fuck about aesthetics. It’s cold and hard, and profits are the only whimsy capitalism enjoys.

    Sans the argument “they’re allowed to make as much money as they want,” if you think the uniforms look aesthetically better with ads, please chime in.

    Not arguing, just noting, the topic wasn’t ads on unis. They do harm the aesthetics of uniforms. The topic was ads on the pitch timer. That’s not a uniform.

    Of course, with the timers being digital, they’d never do something like this Wimbledon clock: link

    I don’t hate that.

    *IF* (and that’s a big if) the timer manufacturer IS actually the advertiser — kinda like a Civic slapping a Honda logo on a car — then I’m *OK* with this. But it must be the timer-maker. I equate this to nike slapping its swoosh on unis. They *made* them, so to me that’s not quite an ad (I mean it is, but it’s as much a ‘makers mark’ as an ad). But if those countdown timers start being just billboards for ANY advertiser, then this is almost as bad as uni ads.

    As I type this, I’m staring at TWO teams with gadawful uni ads, one (link) actually being *worse* than the other (link), if that’s even possible.

    I don’t really mind a logo next to the pitch clock. But I definitely mind seeing the pitch clock. I really like there being a pitch clock to speed up the game, but I don’t think it should be part of the experience of watching the game; it shouldn’t have any impact on game play other than keeping things moving. This is quite different than basketball or football, where the shot/play clock is something that drives game play and strategy. Knowing how many seconds is on the clock is integral to watching those sports.

    In baseball, it’s additional visual noise. It’s distraction in the most aesthetically pleasing of American sports.

    It’s technically a pitch timer, not a pitch “clock” (MLB terms, not mine), and, for better or for worse (I happen to think it’s for better), the timer IS an integral part of the game now. I’d rather not see it on the screen (keeping it in the scorebug is fine by me) either, but without the pitch timer, MLB hasn’t been able to keep things moving…so here we are. But it IS integral to the game now, and as such, it will appear (almost always in the bug) during games. We’re just going to have to adapt.

    I hear you, but I think there’s a differentiation. In basketball, you have 24 seconds to put together a play to get the ball in the basket (obviously a simplified explanation). What you do with 20 seconds left is very different than with 5 seconds left. Without the shot clock, it’s an entirely different game; the offensive and defensive strategy would be very different.

    In baseball (like tennis, which has had a similar timer for a number of years), there’s no difference whether you pitch with 15 seconds left on the clock or 2 seconds. It’s not like with 15 seconds you’d pitch a slider, but with 2 seconds, you gotta settle for fastball. Same game, same strategy, just faster.

    Ultimately, the goal for baseball is zero violations; faster pace just becomes habit. If that happens, it’s entirely irrelevant to the viewer to see the clock.

    So as a viewer, I want to take pleasure in the faster game, but not the countdown clock on the players to make that happen.

    I’ll admit, football is slightly different than basketball; after the snap, a play run with 20 seconds left is the same as one with 1 second left. But what happens before the play (subs, audibles, player movement) is semi-game action. And more crucially, unlike baseball and tennis, there’s a game clock, so the play clock has more importance.

    I don’t disagree with anything you said. My point (in refutation to your original) is that the pitch timer is now INTEGRAL to the game. Perhaps not in the same way a play clock is in other sports, but that doesn’t make it any less important. That’s all. As far as seeing the timer on the screen, again I agree, I’d rather not see it, but I’m ok with it being semi-buried in the scorebug.

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