Nothing struck the heart of a hockey purist like the announcement that ads would be coming to NHL jerseys.
Although it was assumed to be the next logical step when helmet ads were introduced, it hit different when the Washington Capitals were the first team to announce their jersey partner. The fear and worst-case scenario for many being that NHL players would eventually look like players in the European leagues, whose uniforms rival NASCARs in their ads per inch of real estate.
After a plethora of lead up and anticipation, the Columbus Blue Jackets became the next NHL team to announce their jersey sponsor. Starting in the 2022-23 season and locked in for the next two seasons following, the Safelite logo will adorn the top left of Blue Jacket jerseys.
Despite the pressures to get a sponsor for the new season and the inevitable backlash from hockey purists, the Jackets managed to expand their brand as Ohio’s team and ended up making a good choice overall. Let’s break down why that is.
Blue Jackets Went Local
As one of the smaller markets in the NHL, generally there is a focus and appreciation for highlighting all things local. That’s why it’s always a big deal when a Columbus-native comes home or breaks into the NHL.
If you’re not familiar with Safelite, you may be living under a rock, or you’re living abroad. They’re a national chain that mainly works with repairing and replacing glass in windshields. In the Blue Jackets’ press release, they boast that they’re, “the largest vehicle glass repair, replacement and recalibration company under one brand in the world.” So yes, they’re a big company with some money to throw around. The key though is that they are based in Columbus, Ohio.
Safelite adds to the growing list of nationwide companies that are based in Columbus that have hopped on the Blue Jackets train. Nationwide brands the arena, Designer Shoe Warehouse and iDesign (from just outside Cleveland) brand the helmets, and now Safelite brands the jerseys. The consistency of the branding of this Blue Jackets’ organization as Ohio’s team and that homegrown Ohio pride both continue with this sponsorship, so a big thumbs up there.
The Logo is Unobtrusive
Yes, there is going to be another logo on the jersey, but the Jackets picked a good choice to ease fans into the idea of jersey ads. While in a different spot, from a birds-eye view, the added Safelite logo blends into the jersey very well as it’s simple and not overbearing.
Since they’ve decided to make the logo monochromatic instead of adding the different colours normally found in it, upon second glance, it’s really no more obtrusive than the Adidas logo already on the back of the jersey. It seems to fit right in with the team’s existing helmet ads, in that they both appear as though they’re a part of the design process as opposed to being tacked on with no thought to the overall aesthetic.
The other big key to this announcement is that they’ve decided to partner with Safelite on all versions of their jerseys – home, away, alternate, and reverse retro. Consistency in this is key to the team identity, so the brand seems as much a part of the core identity as the logo on the chest and not just a commercial break for the eye.
Jersey Sponsors Aren’t All Bad
Added revenue to the game is never bad. It’s what makes the salary cap go up and who doesn’t like it when the salary cap goes up? It’s what gives general managers the ability to focus on making their teams better, as opposed to being relegated to the role of glorified accountant – as they have been in the flat cap era.
Yes, there has been – and will continue to be – outrage over the added branding to the apparel, but branding never stopped NASCAR fans from buying tons of merchandise. It’ll be noticeable at first, but just as helmet ads have seemed to blur into the background of games, so too will jersey ads. At the end of the day, it’s not going to affect the players on the ice one bit, and the game that we all know and love will go on.
We all knew jersey ads were coming, but for the Blue Jackets, they’ve made the right choice in making the most out of this opportunity.
Writer covering the Columbus Blue Jackets for THW since August 2021.
Co-host of the Blue Jackets’ focused “Union Junction Podcast” on The Hockey Writers’ podcast network.
Also, a radio personality and reporter currently based on Vancouver Island.