Baseball remains deeply ingrained in American history, establishing itself with a national league before basketball was even invented, and celebrating nearly half a century of home runs and strikes before the NFL's inception. So “American” was baseball, that advertising execs, like those that came up with this memorable jingle at Chevrolet in the 1970s, were keen to associate their products with the game in any way possible.
Indeed, Gallup research reveals that baseball was America’s favorite spectator sport from its debut survey in 1937 until deep into the 1960s when football wrestled the number one spot away — a position it has held ever since.
Why baseball doesn’t hold the place in American culture that it once did is a complicated question — but the relentless schedule of the sport is certainly a factor. Major League Baseball teams play a staggering 162 regular season games per year, making it a challenge for casual sports fans to stay engaged. From a product perspective, the NFL's 17 regular game season is, frankly, much more marketable, and it’s reflected in the latest Forbes list of the most valuable sports teams, which is dominated by football teams.
Ticket sales, merchandise and sponsorships all drive huge revenues for NFL teams — but it’s the TV deals that are truly game changing. Indeed, the sport itself is well-suited for modern marketing, with advertisements easily insertable between plays, helping the league secure the most lucrative TV sports deal to date — a whopping $112 billion, 11-year contract that has come into effect this season — a deal that filters through to the coffers of every team in the league.
30 out of the 50 most valuable sports teams in the world are NFL franchises, with the Dallas Cowboys topping the list with a $9bn valuation. The biggest in baseball — the iconic New York Yankees — notched up a $7.1bn valuation, ahead of the LA Dodgers ($4.8bn) and Boston Red Sox ($4.5bn). The number of MLB teams on Forbes' list has remained at a record low level, with only 5 making the cut this year, down from 12 in 2015.