Sportsnet is now placing advertisements on one of the last remaining ad-free areas of a sporting event, the playing surface. Unless Major League Baseball steps in, the fans’ views of baseball games is about to be a lot less appealing.
The ads, seen at above and below in images from a recent Sportsnet broadcast of a Toronto Blue Jays game, are not actually on the Rogers Centre turf. Instead, they are superimposed on the screen, a distinction that means little for the fans watching at home.
Advertising can be seen on the sidelines of other sports, but the NHL is the only other major North American sports league that allows advertising on the actual playing area. And while these ads are in foul territory, it is still very much a part of the playing area of a baseball field.
In 2004, Major League Baseball was forced to scrap plans to put “Spider-Man 2” ads on the bases after an uproar from the fans. And yet, this feels worse and far more imposing.
Where does it stop? If this is OK, what is to keep teams from actually selling ads in foul territory? Will MLB fields soon look like the the boards in hockey, or like the basket supports in an NBA game?
Hopefully MLB will step in and put a stop to this. But if the revenue stream is significant and fans don’t scream and yell, it is probably here to stay and going to get worse.
Interestingly, Sportsnet also superimposed an ad onto the “batter’s eye,” the area in centre field that is a solid colour so that batters can get a better view of the ball. This advertisement actually seems like a good idea. It is not on the playing surface. It is an area that cannot hold an ad at the actual stadium. And it just looks more natural on the screen…
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