Most baseball fans rejoiced when they found out Major League Baseball was going to expand its replay system this season. What the fans probably didn’t realise was that MLB would turn the entire replay system into a gigantic advertisement for Samsung.
Samsung’s influence is now so intertwined with baseball’s replay system that the partnership includes not only a proliferation of corporate logos in places usually clean of ads, but it may also be influencing how umpires are behaving on the field and how MLB’s own writers are covering the sport.
The partnership took off just after the All-Star break when umpire assistants during replay reviews were suddenly wearing hats and shirts with the Samsung logo. The assistants also appeared to be taking a more prominent and visible position between the two umpires working the review.
It seemed like a harmless way to bring a corporate logo onto the playing surface, a place where corporate logos are few and far between. But it did not stop there.
The replay system’s partnership with Samsung went deeper with replays now being “presented by Samsung” both on the field and heard during broadcasts.
Even MLB’s official Twitter page covering instances of replay review has been renamed “Samsung Replay.” Much like your favourite team selling the naming rights to their stadium, MLB has sold the naming rights to a very important part of the game itself.
Again, this is mostly harmless if you can stand a little extra logo creep in your sporting universe.
Clearly this has become a huge revenue stream for MLB and that is great for the sport. But there is also the potential for problems when a long-time corporate partner invests this much money. They typically want influence beyond the occasionally logo showing up in our living rooms.
Suddenly, strange things started to happen which suggested Samsung’s partnership was actually influencing behaviour associated with the replay system and the coverage of baseball in general.
During one replay review with the Tampa Bay Rays facing the Los Angeles Angels, an umpire appeared to notice on the stadium’s screen that the replay assistant wasn’t visible to the fans at the game or the audience watching on television. He then moved the assistant to a spot where the Samsung logo was visible.
A spokesperson for Major League Baseball was adamant that umpires have not received any special instructions on how to handle the visibility of the Samsung logo.
Umpires have plenty of concerns during a game. What they don’t need is to have to worry about whether or not people at home can see the logo of a corporate sponsor.
There is also the unusually large amount of stories being written by beat writers at MLB.com about umpire reviews during games. The writers have specifically been directed to cover every single instance of replay review during games.
An MLB spokesperson told Business Insider this was simply an editorial decision based on the interest in the expanded replay system early in the season and that it might look odd if they cut back later in the season despite less fan interest.
But there may be another reason the MLB beat writers are still covering every single replay review.
If we compare a replay story to any other story, the stories become more curious. Every replay story we could locate came with multiple ads for Samsung.
Suddenly, these stories feel less like news and more like yet another way to promote a corporate partner even if Samsung is not mentioned in the stories directly.
While many fans are outraged at the idea of the NBA putting ads on the teams’ uniforms, the replay system in MLB shows that professional sports leagues are still finding other, creative ways to put the logos of corporate sponsors on to the field of play and on our televisions, computers, and mobile devices.
If you hate the proliferation of corporate logos in sports, be warned. It won’t be long before everything in sports is “presented by” somebody.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.