The Yankees have agreed to terms with Delta Airlines on an eight-year sponsorship contract extension, which includes one of the more notable developments in Major League Baseball advertising in recent memory. As part of the pact, Delta receives increased exposure in the form of massive signage above the right-center field scoreboard, according to the New York Post and other sources.
"D-E-L-T-A" will loom in letters 14 feet high, which matches the font of the "Yankee Stadium" type above the left field scoreboard and represents the closest the Yankees have come to offering naming rights since they opened the first incarnation of their home field in 1923. As perhaps the most significant advertising addition in the history of Yankee Stadiums stretching back to 1923, the airline’s new ad provides an opportunity to discuss the interesting history of Major League Baseball stadium naming rights.
Although widely considered two of the 10 current MLB stadiums without a naming rights deal, Fenway Park and Wrigley Field provide the first two examples of major advertising in professional baseball. While believed to have been named for its neighborhood within Boston, Fenway was named, at least in part, due to the fact that the Taylor Family owned the Fenway Realty Company, according to Dan Shaughnessy. A shrewd business move, the company would receive surreptitious advertising without shelling out a dime. In 1912, this predated Wrigley Field’s own interesting naming past by more than a decade. Now considered an indelible part of Chicago’s history, Wrigley Field was changed from Weeghman Park in 1927, which helped promote William Wrigley’s self-titled gum company.
This opened up the door for August Busch Jr., who owned Anheuser-Busch and wanted to find a way to promote his beer through his stadium’s name. When MLB Commissioner Ford Frick shot down "Budweiser Stadium" in 1953 due to its obvious marketing motivations, "Busch Stadium" was proposed and approved because it thinly honored one of the founders of the company. By 1955, Anheuser-Busch had taken advantage of the naming rights circumvention by formulating a new beer called "Busch Bavarian."
Over time, the stigma behind naming rights became minimized and eventually archaic. Two more beer stadiums, Milwaukee’s Miller Park and Denver’s Coors Field, were erected and eventually baseball fans were forced to adjust to names like "Land Shark Stadium" and "O.co Coliseum."
Although increasing contingents of fans begin to consider the positive effects of stadium advertising, Yankee Stadium has been named thusly since 1923 and it would be foolish to expect a 90-something year legacy to disappear anytime soon. However, advertising additions such as Delta’s most recent signage, as well as news that the Atlanta Braves will soon play their home games in SunTrust Park, make it easy to squint and imagine a day when the Yankees take the field at Snapple Stadium, W.B. Mason Park, or Uber Field. There's evidence that they might have even been secretly trying to sell the idea years ago and Wrigley Field's owners considered a name change as recently as 2008. Major League Baseball’s advertising past suggests that when it happens, we will hardly have noticed any change at all.
What do you think of the new ad?