Under Armour is showing its allegiance to America’s pastime.
This story first appeared in the November 30, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The Baltimore-based sports brand today officially confirmed reports in the sporting goods industry that it has inked a 10-year deal with Major League Baseball to become the league’s official uniform provider beginning in 2020.
The deal will be celebrated during the MLB Winter Meetings at the Pose Lounge in the Gaylord Hotel at National Harbor in Oxen Hill, Md., tonight.
Under Armour will replace Majestic Athletic, a division of VF Corp., which had jerseys, pants, outerwear and other products, and Nike, which had been the base layer sponsor since 2005. In a statement Monday after the Under Armour news was revealed, VF 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.” That facility produces the on-field uniforms for the Majestic brand. VF said in March that it was exploring strategic alternatives for its Licensed Sports Group, which includes Majestic.
Neither MLB nor Under Armour would confirm the value of their contract, but sources said it is worth more than double the league’s deal with Majestic Athletic and will be worth several billion dollars over the life of the agreement. The deal marks Under Armour’s first with a professional sports league.
Under the terms of the deal, which includes Fanatics, a retailer of licensed sports products, Under Armour will provide on-field apparel for players as well as a “significant” assortment for fans, the companies said.
Starting with the 2020 baseball season, Under Armour will be the exclusive provider of all on-field uniform components including jerseys, which will feature prominent Under Armour branding, as well as base layers, game-day outerwear, and year-round training apparel for all 30 MLB clubs. In addition, Fanatics has been granted consumer product licensing rights to manage the manufacturing and distribution of Under Armour and Fanatics fan gear, which includes team jerseys, name and number products and postseason apparel. The consumer assortment of apparel and accessories will debut at retail prior to the 2020 season.
In addition to the apparel, Under Armour will provide the MLB teams with exclusive access to its Connected Fitness platforms, which offers athletes technology designed to inform and strengthen their performance, the companies said.
“Under Armour is proud of our longstanding relationship with MLB and we look forward to this exciting next chapter,” said Kevin Plank, founder and chief executive officer of Under Armour. “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. 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.”
“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,” said MLB Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr.
Michael Rubin, executive chairman of Fanatics, said the partnership will bring “much-needed agility to the industry, enhancing both assortment and speed-to-market of MLB merchandise for teams, fans and retailers.”
Under Armour has been the official performance footwear provider for the sport since 2011. In addition, it currently has more than 400 individual athlete partnerships across the major and minor leagues including 2012 National League Most Valuable Player Buster Posey, 2014 National League MVP and three-time National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, 2015 National League MVP Bryce Harper and others.
Fanatics’ partnership with MLB began in 2002.