Head on over to the Major League Baseball shop and you’ll find your favorite team’s logo slapped on all sorts of outdoor clothing—hats, jerseys, jackets and even ugly sweaters. For the true devotee, a favorite team’s logo can nestle still closer to one’s heart (and other places) in the form of bras, swim trunks and even thongs. Now comes the latest addition to the branded-apparel lineup, and this time it’s for young fans—about as young as they get, in fact.
Get ready, America, now you can buy official Major League Baseball diapers.
For the kids, of course. The MLB has partnered with The Honest Company—maker of a range of personal care products and household cleaners, in addition to designer diapers—to introduce the “Born a Fan” collection. It makes its debut at Target today.
The line features the team logos for six clubs (the Red Sox, Yankees, Cubs, Giants, Cardinals and Dodgers) imprinted on Honest’s super-absorbent, hypoallergenic, plant-based, eco-friendly diapers. Target will be the exclusive retailer for the collection over the next few weeks. Starting May 1, the team diapers will be available at other retailers and via Honest’s own site.
Given that there’s essentially no article of clothing left that MLB hasn’t yet licensed, diapers were bound to come along sooner or later. “Looking at the niche area of consumer products, [we asked ourselves:] ‘Where are we not?’” said evp of business Noah Garden. “This was one of those places.”
You’d think that a consumer products giant like Kimberly-Clark or P&G would snare a deal like this, but Garden said that Honest is “a partner that makes a lot of sense”—largely for actress/founder Jessica Alba’s stated commitments to family, community and environment. It probably didn’t hurt that she’s also a baseball fan.
The partnership with MLB “was a natural fit,” Alba told Adweek, recounting how she grew up in a baseball family, played ball as a kid and still takes her family to ball games. America’s pastime, she said, “is one of the few spots where you can take kids.”
Alba recounted that she was the one who approached MLB with the offer to make team-branded diapers, and hastens to point out that her products—unlike much licensed gear one sees for sale—isn’t just a diaper with a team name slapped on it.
“We do more fashion-forward, trendy design and seasonal designs,” Alba said. The Born a Fan collection incorporates the team logos as part of a more elaborate, locally inspired motif—a four-leaf clover for Boston, the Golden Gate Bridge for San Francisco and so on.
“For each diaper print, the idea was to take inspiration from the city and find a landmark and sprinkle that into the illustration style,” relates Honest Company art director Joey Manfre. “We wanted it to feel like it had a local perspective.”
For Alba’s company, the advantage of partnering with Major League Baseball is not so much in margin (at $13.99 for the 40-count pack, the team diapers are priced the same as the brand’s other diapers) as it is in opening the brand to a demographic of hardcore baseball fans who may not have known about Honest before.
It may also work to distance the brand from difficulties created in March of last year after The Wall Street Journal sent a bottle of Honest’s laundry detergent to a lab and discovered it contained an irritating chemical that Honest claimed it didn’t use. Honest countered that the story contained “factual inaccuracies and misleading statements,” but the company did reformulate its detergent several months later. Honest has also weathered widespread complaints in 2015 about its sunscreen, and it voluntarily recalled its baby powder earlier this year.
Insofar as the team diapers may foster fandom among young—in this case, very young—consumers, the Born a Fan collection may hold some tangible benefits for Major League Baseball (apart from licensing revenue, of course, and merch like this already generates some $3 billion yearly). The game might be the national pastime, but its fan base is graying. The median age of a fan is 53, per ESPN. And while it remains to be seen if babies who wear team-logo diapers will grow up to be adult fans of that team, for the time being the new product may serve to strengthen MLB’s ties with parents who already love the game.
“From a consumer product standpoint, we’re always looking for opportunities to further our brand with the fan base—and that’s families,” the MLB’s Garden said. Diapers, he explained, “seemed like a logical extension of [that.]”
Even so, branding and marketing expert Allen Adamson doesn’t view the Born a Fan collection as much more than a novelty. “Parents are suckers for anything like this … they will buy anything with a logo on it,” said Adamson, a veteran of Landor who now runs Brand Simple Consulting. “It won’t make Major League Baseball any more popular, but it will end up on Instagram in a lot of baby pictures.”
Which is great for Honest, of course, though it still may not win them a steady stream of new customers. Born a Fan diapers will “be an occasional purchase,” Adamson ventured, “… but it won’t [take] anything out of Huggies or Pampers. It[’ll be] fun to do once in a while. But ultimately parents know diaper performance, and they buy the best.”
Adamson will give a few points to both Honest and MLB for hatching the idea of team-branded diapers in the first place, however. “It’s the final frontier of licensing,” he said.