MLB reaches $125 million sponsorship deal with Capital One

Fernando Tatis Jr. #23 of the San Diego Padres runs past third base in the 8th inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 18, 2021 at Petco Park in San Diego, California.

Matt Thomas | San Diego Padres | Getty Images

Major League Baseball has a new banking partner: Capital One.

Under the deal, the company becomes the “official bank and credit card partner” of MLB, according to an announcement Monday. Terms of the deal weren’t made public, but people familiar with the matter told CNBC that it is about $125 million for MLB over five years. The people declined to be named because the numbers weren’t publicly disclosed.

The bank can use MLB and its 30 teams in advertising campaigns, and Capital One will also be a presenting sponsor for the World Series.

MLB’s agreement with Capital One arrives weeks after the league settled a nearly 100-day labor dispute with the MLB Players Association. The work stoppage delayed spring training and the regular season, which will start on April 7.

With labor peace secure, MLB is also set to roll out additional assets around its sport. Sponsorships on helmets could pop up during this season, according to MLB Chief Revenue Officer Noah Garden, and jersey ad patches are slated to premiere in 2023. Uniform sponsorships are estimated to be worth $11 million per MLB team, according to Nielsen. Asked about the accuracy of that figure, Garden said Nielsen’s estimation is “probably right, but they can be even higher in cases because your packaging in more rights than just the patch within some sponsorships.”

The Capital One deal, which doesn’t come as a surprise, will add to MLB’s sponsorship haul. In 2021, MLB’s sponsorship revenue rose to roughly $1.7 billion from about $1 billion during the Covid-shortened 2020 season, people familiar with the matter told CNBC. The league reaped more than $900 million in 2019, according to sponsorship valuation firm IEG. MLB has more than 1,600 sponsorships on the national and local levels, the firm said.

Garden lauded Capital One’s sports promotions and its commercials featuring star actor Samuel L. Jackson, saying that they’re “always fun” and that “fans seem to like them.”

“Gone are the days when you take an MLB logo and slap it on a commercial,” he added. “We want partners that lean in, that reach our fan base, and that offer unique and exciting programs that activate in a big way.”

Inside MLB’s Capital One agreement 

Capital One takes over from Bank of America, which had MLB’s bank promotion rights since 2015 after becoming a league partner in 2004, according to IEG. The firm estimated the agreement paid MLB more than $10 million in the 2021 season. 

This agreement is much different than the BofA pact. For instance, Capital One will get premium signage around the World Series. Its brand logo will be featured on the field, the third and first base bags, in virtual signage behind home plate and on the pitcher’s mound. The last time MLB had a presenting sponsor for the World Series came in 2019 when Alphabet unit YouTube TV owned the rights.

A man stands at the window of an office at a Capital One bank in New York City.

Johannes Eisele | AFP | Getty Images

“The World Series is our jewel event,” said Garden. “That’s going to be the tentpole of our relationship.”

The agreement also comes as MLB tries to bolster its viewership numbers after the pandemic took a toll on the sport.

The 2021 World Series featuring the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros averaged 11.75 million viewers. That’s up from the 2020 World Series, when the Los Angeles Dodgers won their first championship since 1988. That series averaged 9.7 million viewers. 

Both six-game series were down from pre-pandemic levels.

The 2019 World Series featuring the Astros and Washington Nationals averaged roughly 13 million viewers throughout seven games, with the final contest attracting 23 million viewers. The five-game 2018 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and Dodgers averaged 14 million viewers. The Astros’ 2017 World Series win against the Dodgers attracted an average of 18.9 million viewers over seven games.

Capital One will use its MLB relationship to offer benefits for cardholders around top MLB events, including the All-Star Game, Home Run Derby and 2022 Field of Dreams game. The company will also sponsor events at the Little League level, college, MLB minor league games and support the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

This MLB partnership comes weeks before the 75th anniversary of Robinson breaking the color barrier in the league. MLB will celebrate the historic moment on April 15, and Capital One said it would commit a minimum of $250,000 to the foundation for the 2022 season.