Throughout this article, we will look at how well a team’s naming rights sponsor is performing. We will do this using Zoomph Twitter data and analyze followers of a certain team’s affinity for a certain brand compared to MLB fans in general, as well as on a competitor basis. I will note before we begin that Chicago Cubs sponsor Wrigley did not have a Twitter account, plus 7 MLB ballparks do not have true sponsors. Given that, these 8 teams were not analyzed.
Top of the 1st - Explanation of Terms
Hardcore MLB Fans = Twitter followers that have been identified as having an interest in baseball + follow the MLB official Twitter account.
Hardcore X Team Fans = Twitter followers that use keywords such as (“Braves” for a Braves fan) and follow X team’s official account.
Affinity = The amount of people that follow a certain brand as compared to the population.
Hardcore MLB Fans Affinity = The amount of people that follow X brand divided by the amount of hardcore MLB fans.
Hardcore X Teams Affinity = The amount of people that follow X brand divided by the amount of hardcore X teams fans.
Hardcore MLB Fans Indexed (Affinity) = Hardcore MLB Fans Affinity divided by Hardcore X Teams Affinity.
Hardcore X Teams Indexed (Affinity) = Hardcore X Teams Affinity divided by Hardcore MLB Fans Affinity.
Spread = The difference between:
Hardcore X Teams Indexed Affinity for the naming rights sponsor divided by the Hardcore MLB Fans Indexed Affinity for the naming rights sponsor
Hardcore X Teams Indexed Affinity for the naming rights sponsors competitor’s average divided by the Hardcore MLB Fans Indexed Affinity for the naming rights sponsors competitor’s average.
Whew. That’s a lot, but we made it through the order one time.
Top 4 - Best Partnerships by Spread
To simplify spread – the spread is what total value the naming rights sponsor has gained from the partnership (a.k.a. the difference in what the affinity is now vs. what the affinity would have been if there was no partnership in place).
The best performing sponsor of all was Globe Life for the Texas Rangers, who had a massive spread of 2044.66. This is most likely because Globe Life owned the naming rights to the Rangers’ old stadium starting in 2014 and have been at the forefront of the newly constructed Globe Life Field, which just opened two years ago.
Side Note/ Fun Fact: Globe Life began in 1900 as Liberty National Life Insurance, of which Frank P. Samford Sr. (whom Samford University was named after) was President. His son Frank P. Samford Jr. also became President of Liberty National, and my grandfather worked under him.
Comerica has the second highest spread among naming rights sponsors with a difference of 1479.15. Comerica has an indexed affinity of 38.5, almost 9x higher than their next closest competitor, Huntington Bank. This is most likely because it has been the naming rights sponsor since the Tigers relocated to their current stadium in 2000.
Chicago White Sox
Guaranteed Rate places third among MLB naming rights sponsors with a spread of 1408.53. This high spread is likely due to the low affinity rate for Guaranteed Rate’s competitors, as well as the low excitement of the industry. For instance, people will more than likely have a higher affinity toward a tech company than a mortgage company such as Guaranteed Rate.
Defending World Series champs Atlanta Braves and Truist bank come in at fourth in this metric, with a spread of 900.51. This number is due to the fact that among hardcore MLB fans, only 2 people registered as following Truist and one of those was a hardcore Braves fan. It is interesting to note that while direct competitor Regions had a much lower indexed affinity, Regions’ general affinity among Braves fans dwarfed Truist’s in size.
While Toronto was number 5 on this list, the affinity was likely skewed towards Rogers and their fellow Canadian telecom companies since the Blue Jays are the lone (MLB) ranger in the Great White North.
Bottom 5 - Worst Partnerships by Spread
For roughly 40 years of its existence, RingCentral Coliseum was known as the Oakland Coliseum, and people still view the venue in this lens. The A’s partnership with business communications brand RingCentral just began in 2019 and it shows through the negative 2.24 spread. Athletics fans also have roughly 4x the affinity for RingCentral’s competitors than MLB fans do in general, adding fuel to the fire.
The Cincinnati Reds also saw zero hardcore fans following Great American Insurance Group, even though the home office can be seen in the Cincinnati skyline from the stadium bleachers. Their spread of negative .74 is the second worst in the league.
Loan Depot, naming rights sponsor of the Miami Marlins park, saw zero hardcore Marlins fans following the brand and only 22 hardcore MLB fans following the California-based lender. This resulted in a negative .73 spread.
While the Mariners saw a high affinity for their naming rights sponsor T-Mobile, competitors Verizon and AT&T also performed well and closed the gap between the sponsor and the average affinity for competitors.
Target, based in Minnesota, seems like an obvious choice to sponsor the Twins, but the brand would most likely have a high affinity among Twins fans, even if they were not the premier sponsor. While there is a 1.5x indexed affinity among Twins fans for Target compared to MLB fans in general, Twins fans are only about 2x more likely to have an affinity for Target compared to competitors such as Amazon and Walmart.
7th Inning Stretch – Best/Worst General Affinity Sectors
Best – Oh, Almost Forgot … Cue “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”
Again, with the exception of the Toronto Blue Jays, who have a higher affinity for competitors based out of Canada; these are the 3 best performing teams in general affinity for the market sector.
Retail – Minnesota Twins
You may be thinking, I just saw the Twins in the worst partnerships by spread, how could they be in the best sector? While Target, the naming rights sponsor of the Minnesota Twins had a large general affinity among MLB and Twins fans alike - their competitors Walmart and Amazon saw large affinity numbers as well. Twins fans had an average competitor affinity of 4.85%, the largest of any naming rights sponsor sector analyzed. This high average, however, cancelled out the large numbers Target saw, bringing the Minnesota-based brand’s overall gained value down.
Tech/ Wireless Carrier – San Francisco Giants & Seattle Mariners
Interestingly, Oracle and their tech competitors such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft had a high general affinity among MLB and Giants fans with a 2.13% and 1.59% affinity, respectively. Along the same lines, the Telecom/Wireless Carrier segment also performed well, seen through T-Mobile’s partnership with Seattle that saw a 4.8% average affinity for T-Mobile among Mariners fans.
Beverages/Alcohol – St. Louis Cardinals & Colorado Rockies
Both Busch (Cardinals) and Coors (Rockies) and their competitors performed well in the general affinity metric. Brand such as Coors subsidiary Miller Lite (2.8% general affinity) and Anheuser-Busch subsidiary Bud Light (2.1% general affinity) show a strong affinity among MLB fans. These brands affinities of around 2% roughly double the MLB fans affinity for brands such as Citi and Wells Fargo.
Business Communications – Oakland Athletics
The A’s and Ring Central make another visit in the worst of the worst category – this time for worst general affinity. This is explainable though, because these business communications accounts do not have many followers in comparison to sectors such as financial or retail.
Insurance – Cincinnati Reds & Milwaukee Brewers
While the insurance sector does have some companies with a fairly good affinity, the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers’ naming rights partners underperform compared to competitors. American Family Insurance, sponsor of the Brewers, has an affinity of less than .2% among MLB fans. Great American, sponsor of the Reds, actually performs worse. The company didn’t register but 15 followers among hardcore MLB fans, which is an affinity of .006%.
Beverages/ Orange Juice
Both the Tampa Bay Rays and Houston Astros have companies known for orange juice as their naming rights sponsor. General affinity among the sector is low at roughly one half of a percent, as compared to other sectors such as retail, which is around 7.5%.
Top of the 8th - Call to the Pen - Best/Worst for Indexed Affinity
While household names such as Progressive and Minute Maid have a good indexed affinity, those recognizable brands are likely to have a fairly good affinity score without paying a dime. The brands that seemed to perform best in indexed affinity were hyper-regional (a non-household name). These brands all seem to have the goal of gaining brand awareness on a national scale and not the goal of gaining brand recognition for repurchase. These brands included Guaranteed Rate (White Sox), Comerica (Tigers), Globe Life (Texans), and Truist (Braves), among others.
Besides the two teams (Marlins and Reds) that had zero affinity among hardcore fans, the other two lowest indexed sponsors in comparison to MLB fans affinity were T-Mobile with the Mariners, and RingCentral with the A’s. Both naming rights sponsors had less than a 1.5x indexed affinity, and multiple brands performed better than RingCentral in the indexed category among A’s fans.
Top of the 9th – Cross-Comparison of Competitors
Minute Maid vs. Tropicana
Although the Tampa Bay Rays sponsor Tropicana has only a 2.1 indexed affinity among Rays fans, Minute Maid has a score of 4.6 in the same metric among Astros fans. This sizeable jump, however, can’t be taken at face value. Rays fans have zero affinity for Minute Maid, while the Astros fans have a .3 indexed affinity for Tropicana. So, round one - Minute Maid. Round two, Tropicana. Let’s settle this by going to the best indicator of total value – the spread. Here, the Astros beat out the Rays in value generated with a score of 21.61 compared to the Rays’ 5.18. Winner, Houston.
Anheuser Busch vs. Coors
On the surface, the hardcore Cardinals fans’ jump of over 30% in general affinity for Anheuser-Busch’s competitors doesn’t look too good, but upon further inspection, many of these are actually subsidiaries of the parent company. These subsidiary brands such as Budweiser (2.95 indexed affinity), Michelob Ultra (1.71 indexed affinity), and Busch (3.4 indexed affinity) show the power of a long-lasting naming rights sponsor – one that’s lasted through multiple ballparks dating back to 1966.
Rockies naming rights sponsor Coors shows promise through the jump in affinity for Coors among Rockies fans when compared to MLB fans affinity. However, when digging deeper, Coors subsidiary Miller Lite and Miller High Life both have a drop in affinity among Rockies fans when compared to MLB fans. We can also see in comparison to the Cardinals and Anheuser-Busch, the spread is only 3.4 for the Rockies, while it is 15.87 for the Cards.
Bottom of the 9th – In Conclusion
While some partners are hitting a home run with their sponsorships, others are leaving the bases loaded. Securing the right partnership is easier said than done, but if you fill out the lineup card correctly, both the team and sponsor hit it out of the park. That’s why it is imperative that teams and companies alike are constantly analyzing data which will be beneficial for both entities to ensure a partnership that will last for years to come.
A special thank you to Zoomph for allowing us to use their platform to collect this data.
Link to Data
MLB Baseball & Glove Picture Credit : Marshal Smith
Cincinnati Reds Picture Credit: Marshal Smith
About the Author
Marshal Smith graduated from Samford University in December of 2021 and plans to pursue his master’s here at Samford once his diagnosis of Crohn’s disease/Ulcerative Colitis is in remission. He plans to work with a major sports franchise in marketing or data analytics. Here is a link to his LinkedIn profile: www.linkedin.com/in/marshalwsmith