MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers will join the growing contingent of Major League clubs with corporate logos on their uniforms, beginning Friday night after announcing an expanded sponsorship agreement with Milwaukee-based financial services company Northwestern Mutual.
MLB’s most recent collective bargaining agreement allowed teams to begin selling advertising on uniforms for the first time, and the Brewers are the 15th team to add a corporate patch to their sleeves. It’s a group of franchises that runs the gamut in market size and history, from the Yankees, Red Sox and Cardinals to the Reds, D-backs and Marlins.
The patch features the Northwestern Mutual logo in the Brewers’ shade of navy blue and white, with the colors inverted based on which of the Brewers’ four jersey styles they are wearing.
“Look, I’m a little biased because I’m in the sport, but I think baseball has done an admirable job of maintaining the tradition of the game that makes it so special, but also weaving in new elements,” said Brewers president of business operations Rick Schlesinger. “Whether that’s rule changes, where the games are played, new digital assets and where the games are broadcast and streamed to, to a patch. It’s tasteful. It’s not dominating like you see in English football, where the sponsor name is more prominent than the team name. It’s not distracting, but it’s impactful.
“One of the reasons we spent so much time with them on the design of this patch is that we recognize that the baseball jersey is sort of hallowed ground. I’m sure that when the Yankees put numbers on the uniforms in 1929 that there were purists who said, ‘Why are they defacing the great uniform with numbers?’ And then with names, the same thing. But things evolve.”
Keen-eyed fans saw this coming for some time, since the Brewers jersey patch that used to appear on the left sleeve of every player made a switch to the right sleeve for right-handed hitters and pitchers this year. As a result, when the center-field camera shows a hitter digging into the batter’s box, the new corporate patch will be front and center.
Northwestern Mutual CEO John Schlifske will be on hand for Friday’s Nationals-Brewers game to see the new look in person. He was already planning to attend with his family before the agreement was struck.
“I think the Brewers have a great brand, and I think Northwestern Mutual has a great brand,” Schlifske said. “We are all-in on Milwaukee. We’re spending $1 billion downtown on our campus. But ultimately, to attract employees to Milwaukee, we need to be a big league city, so having the Brewers here is a huge part of that overall package when you live and work and play in Milwaukee.”
Both sides declined to disclose terms of their agreement, saying only that it is a multiyear deal beyond the remainder of this season. It’s an expansion of a previous relationship; the company already has its name on the Northwestern Mutual Legends Club at the ballpark.
The new agreement takes that partnership several steps further, making Northwestern Mutual the Brewers’ official financial planning partner. The deal covers the uniform patches, additional advertising in the ballpark, on television and in digital spaces, and a community program that expands the Brewers’ and Northwestern Mutual’s support of Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, with the goal of finding better treatments and cures for childhood cancer.
The timing of Friday’s announcement, Schlifske said, was intended to coincide with Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Next September, the Brewers will identify a home series and donate $1 for every ticket sold for those games to ALSF.
“We never approached this as, ‘Oh, we need to figure out a way to advertise Northwestern Mutual so let’s do this instead of buying TV time,’” Schlifske said. “This was always envisioned as a very, very deep partnership.”
“From our perspective,” Schlesinger said, “it had to check a number of boxes. We really wanted a local partner, an iconic brand and a local partner that has a great reputation. And you wanted a long-standing brand, not somebody you worry about ‘Are they going to be around in two years?’ [Northwestern Mutual] has been around for 165 years and is a signature company.”