In a decision that felt like it was only a matter of time, it was announced on Tuesday that the NHL will have advertising on the front of team jerseys for the first time.
Despite league commissioner Gary Bettman saying years ago that he didn’t want the league to go that route, he appears to have changed his mind on that decision. This doesn’t mean that he was lying at the time he said he didn’t want them. In fact, he likely still doesn’t. However, given the situation the league has been put in financially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, he really didn’t have a choice here.
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The league has been increasing ad usage over the years, including bringing in helmet ads for the 2020-21 season. While it can certainly hurt the visual, it is a great marketing tool and will help the league and its owners make up for money lost over the past year and a half. It is nothing new to the sport either, as both the AHL and ECHL, as well as many leagues in Europe, have had ads on their jerseys for a number of years.
Outside of the projected additional $150 million in revenue the league projects to earn by going this direction, the NHL will continue with the helmet ads as well, which Bettman said earned teams more than $100 million in revenue.
Another comment Bettman had made years ago when asked about the possibility of ads on jerseys was that he did not want to be the first major sports league to do so. He has stayed true to that statement, as the NBA ended up allowing advertisements on their uniforms in 2017. The issue in not being the second league (the NHL now is), stems from the potential lack of available businesses and sponsors who would be interested in this sort of marketing and isn’t already tied up to another sports franchise.
This is a situation that will not be popular with fans, many of whom have scoffed at different jerseys worn in Europe that are covered in ads. Thankfully, the NHL jerseys will be limited to just one ad, which will be on display in a 3-inch by 3.5-inch rectangle.
While the main idea here is for the league to recoup some lost money from the past year, it doesn’t likely mean that it will be short lived. When Bettman as well as the owners see how much money this brings in for them, it is hard to imagine them getting rid of the ads.
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From a personal standpoint, this doesn’t seem like the biggest deal in the world. Sure, we as hockey fans love to see teams’ jerseys and don’t want anything interfering with them, but if one logo is going to help teams make up for the money they lost than so be it. Given how small the area is, it shouldn’t take away from the look of the jersey much if at all.
The only concern here is if they get money hungry and continue to add more advertisements over the years, which would then completely ruin the jerseys. Let’s just hope this is as far as it goes. If it doesn’t, is this really that big a deal? When the logos on helmets became a thing, many fans felt as though they were a natural fit and that they should have been there a long time ago.
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