Under Armor Plays The Field With MLB In New ‘Innovative’ Alliance Beginning 2020
Tuesday, December 6, 2016 at 08:25AM
NYSportsJournalism.com in Fanatics, MLB, MLB, Under Armour, sports marketing

By Barry Janoff

Originally Published In MediaPost

December 5, 2016: Calling it a “watershed moment,” Under Armour, Fanatics and MLB confirmed they have joined together in a ten-year alliance that makes Under Armor the official uniform provider for MLB beginning with the 2020 season.

As part of Under Armour’s first pro uniform deal, the company would become the exclusive MLB provider of all on-field uniform components including jerseys that will feature "prominent Under Armour branding," base-layer, game-day outerwear and year-round training apparel for all 30 MLB clubs.

Financial terms of the alliance were not shared.

The partnership, hinted at by industry analysts during the recent MLB post-season, was unveiled during MLB’s Winter Meetings in National Harbor, Maryland.

"This is a watershed moment for the Under Armour brand as this partnership with MLB and Fanatics furthers our collective dedication to bringing passion, energy and innovation to the game of baseball," said Kevin Plank, founder and CEO for Under Armour, at a media event. "Under Armour's goal is to engage and excite MLB's incredibly diverse fan-base across America and around the world, and grow the game for the next generation of great athletes."

The Under Armour deal will mean the end of MLB’s alliance with both uniform supplier Majestic, which dates back to 1982, and a base-layer apparel deal with Nike.

Fanatics, a global leader of licensed sports merchandise, gains "broad consumer product licensing rights" to manage the manufacturing and distribution of Under Armour and Fanatics fan gear.

That includes jerseys at retail, name and number products and playoff and World Series apparel.

Under Armour and Fanatics said they expect "an assortment of new fan gear apparel and accessories at retail, prior to the 2020 season," as well as multi-media marketing support as the alliance kicks in.

Under Armour has worked with MLB since 2000 as an official baselayer supplier, then in 2011 became the league’s official performance footwear partner.

Under Armour already has deals with MLB players including 2016 American League Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello (Boston Red Sox), 2016 All-Star Game MVP Eric Hosmer (Kansas City Royals) Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers), Buster Posey (San Francisco Giants), Bryce Harper (Washington Nationals), Brandon Phillips (Cincinnati Reds) and Will Myers (San Diego Padres).

Fanatics operates more than 300 online and offline stores, including the e-commerce business for MLB, MLS, Nascar, NBA, NFL, NHL and PGA; media brands NBC Sports, CBS Sports and Fox Sports; and more than 200 collegiate and global pro teams.

According to Michael Rubin, executive chairman for Fanatics, "This partnership epitomizes our next-generation model, which brings much-needed agility to the industry, enhancing both assortment and speed-to-market of MLB merchandise for teams, fans and retailers.

"Both Fanatics and Under Armour get to do what each does best, while joining forces with an innovative and tech-savvy league to help grow the game of baseball through a pioneering new business model better suited to today's digital economy," said Rubin.

"Under Armour's goal is to engage and excite MLB's diverse fan-base across America and around the world, and grow the game for the next generation."

Majestic began suppling with MLB with batting practice jerseys in 1982 and became an official partner in 1984. In 2004, Majestic become the exclusive supplier of on-field jerseys for all 30 MLB teams through a deal, extended in 2015, that runs through 2019.

Majestic, a division of VF Corp., also has an alliance with the NFL.

Greensboro, N.C. based VF Corp. said it is in "ongoing, productive talks with Major League Baseball with a collective goal to ensure that VF’s Easton, Pa., facility continues to produce on-field uniforms for MLB for a very long time."

VF said that its Easton facility, which employs about 600 workers, currently produces all on-field uniforms for MLB under the Majestic brand.

VF this past March reveald that it was exploring strategic alternatives for its licensed sports group, which includes the Majestic brand.

According to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, "Under Armour's marketing ability and brand status are a perfect fit to showcase our players and provide an even stronger connection between our game and its young fans and players. We appreciate Majestic's many contributions to our clubs, players and fans throughout our partnership."

"Under Armour is proud of our long-standing relationship with MLB and we look forward to this exciting next chapter,” said Plank.

Under Armour’s athlete roster also includes Stephen Curry, Michael Phelps, Andy Murray, Lindsey Vonn, Misty Copeland, Jordan Spieth and Sloane Stephens.

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