Brand Strategy

Bird meet sheep: How the Orioles found their first jersey-patch sponsor

Asset management company T. Rowe Price’s patch will make its debut on the sleeves of the team’s uniforms on Tuesday.
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Baltimore Orioles

· 4 min read

A new sports sponsorship is about to take flight: On Monday, the Baltimore Orioles announced asset management company T. Rowe Price as their first-ever jersey patch sponsor.

The multiyear deal means T. Rowe Price’s branding—the company name and its logo of a bighorn sheep named Trusty—will appear on the sleeve of the Orioles’ uniforms beginning with Tuesday’s game against the Braves at Camden Yards in Baltimore, where T. Rowe Price is also based. The asset management company has done a bit of sports marketing, including a recent deal with the Atlantic Coast Conference, but nothing of this scale, according to Head of Global Marketing Theresa McLaughlin.

“We’ve been working on a brand refresh for about a year now, and this was just the next step for us, making sure we’re really clear on telling our story and our messaging,” she told Marketing Brew. “Sponsorships play an important role in doing that.”

Will they, won’t they

The deal was a long time coming for the Orioles, and the team took its time to find its ideal match patch partner in T. Rowe Price, Orioles SVP and CRO T.J. Brightman said.

When Major League Baseball first announced that teams would be allowed to take on jersey-patch sponsors in 2022, Brightman said the Orioles immediately started exploring opportunities but that the team also wanted to “sit back and observe” the earlier movers in the space before making anything official. They had conversations with multiple companies over that time but, based on learnings from other teams, ultimately decided a local brand would be the best fit, Brightman said.

“We were very conscious of the company that was going to be on our uniform,” he said, later adding that “traditionally, these types of deals attract a lot of interest from companies outside of your market.” In the early days of MLB jersey patches, there was some blowback from fans who did not exactly love the new addition to the uniforms (looking at you, Yankees supporters), but Brightman said by now, more people are used to the concept.

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The sponsorship makes T. Rowe Price the exclusive wealth management and investing partner of the Orioles and includes real estate beyond the jersey, such as branding in the outfield, on the scoreboard, behind home plate, and at the Orioles’ spring training facility in Sarasota, Florida, as well as involvement in joint community events.

McLaughlin and Brightman declined to share the value of the deal or its specific length.

“This is really a multifaceted program,” McLaughlin said. “We’re not interested in just doing the patch. While we think that’s great—we love that it travels with the team—it was important for us to look at this more broadly.”

Hard to get

With some jersey-patch deals rivaling the cost of stadium-naming rights, aka hundreds of millions of dollars over the course of many years, T. Rowe Price didn’t immediately bite when the Orioles came calling. First, McLaughlin said she and her team analyzed ROI and the other “intangibles associated,” like the potential for the deal to impact the brand’s role in the Baltimore community.

Ultimately, it “just made sense” on both fronts, McLaughlin said. Plus, who can resist the allure of a team on the rise? The Orioles had their best record in 40 years last season, winning 101 games.

Ideally, McLaughlin said the partnership will lead to increased brand awareness, consideration, and favorability for T. Rowe Price in Baltimore in other target markets for the company where the team plays, like New York, Toronto, and Boston. Her team has baselines for those metrics and plans to continually re-measure them, beginning as early as the start of the partnership, she said.

The patch goes live Tuesday, more than a month after the start of the MLB season. Once the Orioles’ recent ownership change went through, she was eager to get involved for the rest of the season—which she’s optimistic about, to say the least—rather than waiting until 2025.

“They’re going to go all the way,” she said. “They’re going to be in the World Series, and so why wouldn’t we want to take advantage of that?”

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