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Let’s talk about ads on jerseys

If you hate the idea of the NHL adding jersey ads to their uniforms then seeing the news that small corporate logos will are reportedly coming in time for the 2022-23 season is going to be a problem. Let’s break it down.

On Tuesday, Sportico’s Eben Novy-Williams and Scott Soshnick broke the story that the league’s Board of Governors had unanimously approved the idea of teams starting the process of negotiating potential jersey ad deals with interested sponsors. The report states that patches will measure 3 inches by 3.5 inches, which isn’t overly big or anything but that doesn’t make some hockey fans feel any better about the idea. For many, NHL jerseys are sacred and should not be tarnished by corporate logos, but for a league that’s likely hurting for cash because of the pandemic and having to play through what was mostly a fanless season, this is an easy way for teams to try and recoup some cash in the easiest way possible.

Remember when the league approved ads on helmets for the 2021 season and how many of us were annoyed? Well, it wasn’t long until everyone stopped caring about the helmet ads, and moving some onto the jerseys was the next logical step that we all should have seen coming. Will we stop caring about jersey ads just as quickly? My guess is yes. As much as we may not like the idea of ads on our beloved Oilers jerseys, it’s no secret that money talks and I don’t know that the NHL is really in a spot to be turning down easy revenue. So when you combine depleted revenues with a need to get creative, putting ads everywhere is what we’re destined to get. And as Gary Bettman said back in July, with the current financial state of the league, jersey ads were not an idea that could be immediately dismissed.

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“It’s something that makes good sense for us to be considering and looking at but certainly not for next season. Beyond that, I’m not prepared to predict but it’s something we’re looking at.”

Considering leagues like the EPL and NBA are already using jersey ads, I have to admit that I’m not the least bit surprised to see that the NHL will be following suit to try and score their own piece of the pie. I mean, making millions of dollars just by giving up a 3×3 inch area on the front of the uniform seems like some of the easiest money that NHL owners could hope to cash, and as much as I’m not really into the idea, I’d be hard-pressed to say that I wouldn’t do the same. Free money for something you’ll barely even see on TV? Tell me you wouldn’t cash those cheques.

So how much will these ads be worth? Greg Wyshynski dug into the details over at ESPN and it seems like teams in hockey markets like this one could be in for a nice little payday here.

NHL teams believe that advertisements on jerseys will rival, and perhaps surpass, the money generated by their arena-naming-rights deals. “We value it along the same lines as naming rights in an arena, but this is more personal. Your brand, and anything that comes with it … this is bigger than impressions,” Morehouse said.

The Penguins president said that many teams pull in between $4 million to $6 million in arena-naming-rights revenue. He believes that the revenue for jersey ads will be closer to $6 million, but “maybe a lot higher in certain markets.”

When I see a number like $4-6 million dollars earned from sewing a small patch on the front of a jersey, I can’t help but imagine rich billionaire owners smiling widely as they picture a dose of corporate cash coming in for doing next to nothing. Slap a patch on for millions of dollars? Giddy up, baby. For the fans, however, the idea of buying a jersey with someone else’s logo on it outside of your favourite team is understandably annoying — I personally wouldn’t want a Canadian Tire logo on my next Nuge jersey — but the good news is that it seems like we’ll still be able to get our stuff without the sponsored ads. Back to Wyshynski’s article:

According to the NHL, the majority of jerseys available for sale will not have advertising logos on them. “There are going to be certain places where you can buy it with the logo, so you can wear what the players are wearing. But for the person that doesn’t want the logo on the jersey, they will be able to get one,” Wachtel said.

Replica jerseys available on the NHL’s online store will likely not have the logos the players wear on the ice. Wachtel said that the NHL is following the NBA’s model and seeking to sell the jerseys with the advertisements on them in team stores and inside arenas, but that could change according to demand.

The NHL hasn’t indicated whether there’ll be a price difference between an authentic jersey with an ad or without one.

What will be interesting to watch is how the logos are actually applied to the jerseys and whether or not the sponsors will be willing to bend on their corporate branding to match the team’s colours that they’re paying to be a part of. As an example, if Rogers is the company that sponsors the Oilers, I would like to see their logo in blue or orange as opposed to red, which would really stand out on Edmonton’s uniforms. That said, expecting big corporations to care about anything other than their own bottom line is probably wishful thinking at best, so we’ll just have to wait and see how things play out over the next year until these ads are actually landing on jerseys.

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Personally, I don’t think adding a small logo to the front of the sweaters is that big of a deal provided that they keep it at one, especially since I’ll be able to buy one without the logos anyway. Where I’ll start to get annoyed is if the NHL turns their uniforms into NASCAR like the European leagues do because I think they look like shit and I would hate to see it get there. Is adding one logo opening pandora’s box for more to come? I hope not, but as I mentioned earlier, hoping that mega-corporations will do anything the fans want over taking a quick buck could be just wasting all of our time. What do you guys think?