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For the Birds: Cardinals Are Latest MLB Team to Add Uni Advertiser

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This one really hurts: The Cardinals, who until now had my favorite uniform in all of sports, yesterday became the latest MLB team to add a uni advertisement, announcing a seven-year deal to sell space on their sleeves to a wealth management company. The price was not disclosed.

When the MLB uni ad program was first announced, I had hoped that Cards owner Bill DeWitt III, a guy who has repeatedly shown that he Gets It™,  would avoid going down this road. But DeWitt said a few months ago that the team was searching for a uni advertiser, and then said a few weeks ago that a uni ad was in the works. So yesterday’s ad announcement wasn’t really a surprise — just a big disappointment.

The ad made its on-field debut during last night’s Angels/Cards game. As we’ve seen with other teams, the ad can go on either sleeve, to maximize TV exposure based on the player’s handedness:

Here’s a weird wrinkle to all of this: As you may recall, the Cards added a Bruce Sutter memorial patch this season. So is the Sutter patch now occupying the non-advertised sleeve? Nope — it turns out that the Cards wore the Sutter patch for their first 19 games of the season (its last appearance was on April 19) and then quietly scrapped it when they started a 10-game road trip on April 21. None of us noticed that, but it was a big hint that the ad patch’s arrival was imminent.

We’ve seen other teams make room for the sleeve ads by eliminating their previous sleeve graphics prior to the start of the season (the Phillies, for example, no longer wear their sleeve numbers), but this is the first time a team has scrapped a team-specific patch — and a memorial patch, at that — in the middle of the season in order to clear the way for the sleeve ad. I’ve asked DeWitt why the team didn’t simply wear the Sutter patch on the non-advertised sleeve and will update this post if/when I hear back from him.

Update: DeWitt just emailed me back. Here’s what he had to say:

The Sutter patch was always going to rotate off after the first month of the season, just based on our internal discussions about what is appropriate relative to his legacy with our franchise.  It was just a coincidence that the Stifel patch came on as the Sutter patch was phased out.

The Cardinals are the ninth MLB team so far to add a uniform ad. The other eight are the PadresRed SoxD-backsAngelsAstros, Reds, Marlins, and Mets. Several additional teams have said that they’re actively searching for a uni advertiser, so we’ll probably see more in-season announcements in the weeks and months to come.

The Cardinals’ advertiser also runs ads on the St. Louis Blues’ uniforms. This makes them the second company to advertise in two of the Big Four leagues. The first such company was an electronics brand whose ads are worn by the Padres and several NBA teams.



Can of the Day

Such a nice combination of type and image. Good example of how you don’t need multiple colors to create a really attractive design.



What Paul Did Last Night

My next-door neighbor Hunter (at left in the photo shown above) is a big NBA fan. My across-the-street neighbor Harris (on the right) hails from Toronto and is a big Maple Leafs fan. And I, of course, am a big Mets fan. So with the Knicks, Leafs, and Mets all playing last night, the three of us biked over to our local sports bar for a night of neighborly fandom. I even wore a Uni Watch hockey jersey for the occasion.

The Mets were rained out, so we only had to divide our attention between two games instead of three. The Knicks won (go New York, go New York, go!) but the Leafs lost — poor Harris was inconsolable during the bike ride back to our block. Still, it was a very good night out, filled with beer, wings, neighborhood gossip, and free tequila shots from Tommy the bartender. Not bad for a Tuesday night.

Comments (66)

    Stifel??? Sigh. I shudder to think what an ad patch will look like on the Yankees uniform.
    The Cards owner may “get it”, but you know what he understands more? Money. None of this is a surprise. Never forget…these owners didn’t become billionaires by passing up a chance to make a buck. Also, most of them aren’t fans of baseball (or any sport). They couldn’t care less if they’re desecrating these MLB uniforms. It’s just another revenue stream. That’s why we can expect another sleeve ad patch. An ad on the jersey front. Helmet and cap ads. And ads in places we didn’t think possible. Nothing is sacred.
    Thanks. Rant over.

    I hate every word of what you said. Only because you are 100% right, of course. Well said. This is exactly how I feel about it, too.

    Good to see the Cardinals have their priorities in order on those ad patches in place of the Bruce Sutter memorial. Hey, it’s just business.

    For the record, I don’t even know what a “Stifel” is, but I will not be making any effort to find out because I have no interest in participating in any activity that would make the advertising effective.

    They are a financial services organization who also have the ad patch for the St. Louis Blues.


    Yep. Went to the comments prior to a detailed read. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    I’ve watch the Cubs/Nationals games the past two nights. Two things irritated the shit out of me. 1) The Nationals alternate their team patch depending on if the batter is left or right handed (we all know what this probably means). I’m all about consistency. And seeing players standing together with patches on different sleeves just looks bad. 2) Then throw the memorial patch for Ted Lerner ON TOP of the team patch when they have a perfectly empty sleeve to place it on. Looks horribly busy.

    I’m a huge Padres fan and I noticed that about them too! The ad is always on the camera facing shoulder (when batting/pitching). In addition to that just being a jerk move, it alters the direction of the bat on the Padres swinging friar patch and it looks weird on righties where the bat is pointing inward towards the player’s body, instead of back towards the players back. ugh!

    Presumably a memorial is coming for Mike Shannon, former Cardinal player and longtime broadcaster, who died over the weekend while the Cardinals were on the road. It says something about the priorities that the ads went on the unis for the first home game since then, before any memorial for Shannon.

    It is a sad day in the uni-verse when the best thing I can say about the Cardinals defiling their timeless uniforms is that the patch is small, sorta subtle and rendered in team colors, making it less offensive than possible, But its presence is offensive, in and of itself. I’m usually not defeatist but this is where we are.

    What a despicable, callous move by the Cardinals. I hope they are planning a dual Shannon/Sutter patch but I’m not betting on it. My closest friend is a devoted Cardinals fan and I normally like to see them playing well for his sake but honestly, unless they somehow fix this, I hope their season stays in the toilet.

    We all need nights like that with our friends at the local tavern. Just had one a few weeks ago with my dad crew from our daughters softball team.

    I just wish there was a way for fans to have a voice and say NO ONE wants this. Owners don’t care. Removing a memorial patch for an ad patch is just poor taste, but they don’t care.

    Add the Phillies to the list of teams preparing for their ad. They’ve had sleeve numbers for the entire life of their current uniform and this year both sleeves are bare. It’s coming.

    Budweiser has virtually no connection to St. Louis anymore. Granted there is a manufacturing facility in town, but corporate is pretty much all in Brazil and South Africa. Stifel, conversely, is as local as local can be in the 21st century. Not saying it’s good or bad, just noting geography.

    Budweiser not exactly in a good place right now, nationally…

    Well said about the disappointment about the advertising on the Cardinals uniform. First the swoosh, and now this. I watched the game last night (another in a series of disappointments), and my eyes were drawn to the “stains” on the Cardinals jerseys. I do hope they have patches for Tim McCarver and Mike Shannon, as they are certainly deserving. Paul, my thanks to you and everyone involved for all that you do!

    Can’t wait for the next round of ads. I think they’ll be below the numbers on the back of the jersey.

    Or within the numbers. Small logos, like they do with league logos in soccer. Sad, all these ads.

    I was wondering how they’d handle a patch for the recently deceased Mike Shannon, a player & broadcaster for over 60 years combined for the team, while also keeping the Sutter patch.
    I guess this is it – they won’t. Disappointing.

    You mentioned the Cards were your favorite sports uni until now. Out of curiosity, what’s replaced them at the top?

    Maybe the A’s? They were second on your MLB rankings, and they’re green and yellow!

    The elephant patch alternating sleeves suggests they might have an ad in the works however…

    DeWitt has truly failed to read the room on this one. April was the worst month of Cardinals baseball in a decade (thanks to poor/no moves from the FO to build a competitive team), and then we lost Mike Shannon. The next thing we hear from ownership is this uniform ad nonsense. Glad he got booed before the game yesterday.

    But with this influx of Stifel money, we’ll definitely sign Ohtani or another big free agent. Or it will just be more money in Dewitt’s pocket. One or the other.

    We Cardinals fans share your disgust. Defiling the best uniform in sports is bad enough. Doing so at the expense of the Sutter patch…an MLB Hall of Famer…and also doing so BEFORE you put out a patch for either Tim McCarver who died a few weeks ago, or legendary Cardinals player/broadcaster Mike Shannon who died over the weekend, all of whom have World Series rings with the team…is just ridiculously tone deaf. (I read one of the beat writers say the press conference for the patch was already set and couldn’t be rescheduled…which is preposterous.)

    The Cardinals have been largely a model franchise…but they didn’t just miss the mark with this, they missed the entire dart board. Tie all of this to the fact they absolutely suck right now, made no major moves in the off-season like they claimed they would, and have looked largely lifeless on the field, just make it that much worse.

    “(I read one of the beat writers say the press conference for the patch was already set and couldn’t be rescheduled…which is preposterous.)”

    I’m assuming it’s a matter of contract law. The agreement would likely have the debut date written down, with the only provision for moving the date being a postponement of the scheduled game, at which time the debut would be moved to the first game played after that postponement. Reneging – not wearing the patch on the prescribed date – would no doubt incur penalties against the team.

    The ad patch situation is disappointing, but the debut date being locked in is not preposterous.

    The date they announced it was actually an off-day. So I have no doubt it was contracted to be announced on that date.

    It just seems to me that reasonable parties on both sides could have gone to each other and stated the obvious, which is “this is going to be a really bad look for both of us, how about we wait a week”…instead of incurring the almost-universal scorn they’ve achieved in the subsequent 48 hours. That’s the part I find preposterous.

    Here’s the thing: the advertiser is a local business. (In case we St. Louisans didn’t already know that, it was all over the “patch partner” announcement BS that the Cardinals put out yesterday.) If the team had said “look, we’re a bit concerned about the optics of putting your patch on before Shannon’s,” there’s a good chance the company would have understood and consented to the delay rather than exercising any right they may have had under the contract. (Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.) I blame the team for *not* having the decency to delay rather than it being somehow set in contractual stone.

    That’s a lot of people to honor in one season. The Cards might be better off using a simple black stripe. And if they’re going to suck, please send Goldschmidt and Arenado back to Arizona and Colorado, since they so blatantly fleeced those have-nots of their talent a few seasons ago.

    Tried to scan the comments to see if it had been mentioned yet, but I received an email as part of the “marketing blast” for the ad patch from tthe Cardinals yesterday. DeWitt was quoted as saying that the advertiser “even agreed to slightly modify their word mark to fit the red and blue combination that we use for our classic Birds on the Bat logo.”

    Update: DeWitt just got back to me. He says: “The Sutter patch was always going to rotate off after the first month of the season, just based on our internal discussions about what is appropriate relative to his legacy with our franchise.  It was just a coincidence that the Stifel patch came on as the Sutter patch was phased out.”

    I’ve added that to the text.

    I believe the memorial patches the Cardinals have had on their jerseys during the past few years (Musial, Schoendist, Gibson, etc.) were on there for the entire season. What a coincidence that Sutter only got his for a month and timed out perfectly with the advertisement release.

    That aspect makes sense, though. Sutter won a title with them, but hey, he was a Chicago Cub. Shannon was born and raised in St. Louis, and he and McCarver won multiple titles with the Cardinals. “Rotating off” Sutter might look bad but it kinda makes sense in a tough year for Cardinal mortality.

    “It was just a coincidence that the Stifel patch came on as the Sutter patch was phased out.”

    Uh huh

    Do the Cardinals have that patch on both sleeves?! I’ve noticed with the Padres ad patch, they switch the sleeve placement of the patch so that it’s always on the camera facing shoulder when batting (or pitching). Do other team’s do this and I just havnt noticed? In addition to the blatant and obvious corporate douchbagery, I think the Padres swinging friar shoulder patch looks weird on the right shoulder (bat faces towards the player’s front), rather then on the left should (bat faces towards the players back).

    Good (on lefties): link

    Bad (on righties): link

    The alternating sleeves thing has been mentioned in pretty much every single UW post about baseball uniform ads.

    I am not a bar type, but I have to admit the idea of a neighborhood establishment that is a “third place” beyond work and home where people apparently know you and folks go to hang out sounds pretty cool (and I am also not a very social person either!). Definitely, not something you get out in the ‘burbs of most major American cities. While I don’t want to live in the density of a huge metropolis like New York (though I do love to visit and want to see more of the non-touristy areas on future visits), things like that sound like a cool aspect of life there.

    Do I like ad patches on uniforms? No. But do I think it is as big of a deal as some make it? No. Maybe its because I watch Formula 1 and used to watch NASCAR where sponsor graphics are part of a team identity. The reality is that these players get paid enormous amounts of salaries, the costs of the facilities to host these teams have reaching astronomical amounts – not sure about MLB, but NFL stadiums are routinely crossing $1 billion now – and, since these are businesses, the money has to come from somewhere. It’s either going to come from fans directly through tickets, indirectly through merchandising fees which will push up merchandise prices, or from things like ads. As primarily a college football fan, I just hope the ads stay off team uniforms there. Fortunately, selling naming rights to college football stadiums and arenas is not nearly as common as it is for pro sports facilities. Hopefully, that will push back the arrival of ads on college uniforms.

    “Memorial patches like the “42” patch to honor late Hall of Fame closer Bruce Sutter have worn all season will still have space on the Cardinals’ jerseys and will be placed on the opposite sleeve of the Stifel patch.”


    I have to say, all of this is a win for me as a Phillies fan because every red and white ad patch gets noted as being in “Phillies colors.” Which means that we win.

    For what it is worth, and I admit not much, I am tracking the companies who are advertising and will endeavor to avoid them.

    Sure, if the ambulance takes me to New York Presbyterian I won’t complain. But I’m not going to support this nonsense.

    I’m no fan of ads, to be sure, and certainly an advertiser’s choice to buy space on the uni isn’t going to necessarily endeavor (love that term) me to use/purchase their product (and might even dissuade me from so doing), but I can’t fault said advertiser in this instance. It’s the team’s choice to allow ads to sully the uni — all the purchaser is doing is *hoping* for a ROI; let’s face it, if company x isn’t going to buy the space, then company y will. The blame falls squarely on Manfred, MLB and the teams — and IMO not on the advertiser.

    Hot take but most of these patches aren’t nearly as bad as I thought they would be in that they are typically barely noticeable. Same for the NHL patches. Definitely some exceptions, but for the most part, they seem to blend in to the point you don’t really notice it.

    I understand the “this is just the beginning,” argument but in Japan they’ve had these advertising patches for a very long time now and it’s remained just a similarly sized patch on the sleeve. Closer to home, the NBA has had their patches for several years at this point and they haven’t grown or changed spots.

    If this is it for the patches, I’m not too bent of shape about it. If they move anywhere else on the uniform though, and/or if they put adverts on the caps (batting helmets idc), then I’ll be very mad.

    “The amputation of my pinky wasn’t nearly as bad as it would have been if it had been my whole hand.”

    Not at all. I’m not saying it’s a good thing. It’s a stupid money grab. All I’m saying is it’s not quite as bad as you all are making it out to be. It could certainly get that bad, that’s for sure.But at this point, it’s pretty easy, for me at least, to “tune out,” the ads.

    One reason is that, to my knowledge, they don’t even sell jerseys with the ads on them. So you only see them on TV or if you go to a game and from those distances, to me at least most of them just look like any other random patch they’ve thrown on for any reason. I don’t find them distracting.

    If the ads were in a different spot, or bigger, or if the team stores only sold jerseys with the ads, that would be frustrating. Who knows, the “this is just the beginning,” folks maybe be right, the ads may get bigger, and more intrusive, but looking at Japan, I am fairly confident, especially since, culturally, Japan is way more comfortable with uniform advertising and their ads in NPB have managed to remain a small patch on the sleeve, same as ours’.

    Any ad cheapens the uniform. A sad day for Cards fans and/or fans of the Cards uniforms (like me).

    If you didn’t think DeWitt was going to maximize a financial opportunity, you obviously don’t pay attention to him or the way he runs this organization. He’s the one who said in 2020 that running a baseball team “isn’t profitable” right around the time he dropped north of $8M on a house in Hollywood Hills. I wouldn’t mind (too much) if he’d use any of this to bolster the pitching staff, but after 4 years of nothing more than Steven Matz, I’m going to quit trying to convince myself.

    The Cardinals missed a golden opportunity here. They should get a bat company to pay to have their logo on the Cardinal’s iconic bat.

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