When you enter an NHL arena, you’ll notice that there are ads on just about every surface that will allow for it – just look around next time you attend a game. There are logos on the ice, around the dasher boards, on the scoreboard, and in hundreds of other places throughout the building. Hell, even the name of the building is an advertisement for a corporate sponsor. And with the NHL always looking to generate team revenue, jerseys may be the next canvas for ads.
MLS, NASCAR, and European hockey and soccer leagues have been doing this for years. But now that the NBA—a major American sports league—is placing ads on player jerseys, the NHL won’t be far behind. There have been rumblings of this for a while now and the recent World Cup of Hockey was a great test market for the concept. What better time than when the NHL converts to Adidas as their main jersey producer for the 2017-18 season.
Jersey ads would be implemented team-by-team: individual NHL organizations would offer the jersey space up and—like with on-ice ads or other placements—companies would bid to acquire that space. However, there are a few things potential advertisers should consider first before buying this controversial ad space:
- Is any press really good press?
- Cost of impressions – best use of marketing budget?
- Fans’ reaction
Despite these concerns, jersey ads are going to happen at some point. The NHL just needs to formally approve it and companies would then determine if that’s a frontier in which they want to venture.
Designing the Ads
What’s the best approach, though? A simple logo on the jersey?
Hockey is violent, and fans love that aspect of the game. It’s one of the few sports that actually allows fighting. With that being said, brands can play into the rough-housing nature of the game. Remember Tide’s Super Bowl ad involving the stain on Terry Bradshaw’s dress shirt? Companies could take the same approach with blood or sweat stains. Gross, eh?
Another approach could simply be to buy the space and sponsor it as an “ad-free zone” – analogous to a brand buying highway billboard space and placing an image of nature’s beauty on it.
It’s important to remember that our favorite teams are not just a source of entertainment, joy, and agony, but are businesses as well. They need to make money just as your place of work does. And when a new revenue source pops up, they’ll likely take advantage of it. Hopefully, some will do so in a creative way.
Tony Wolak is based in the Washington D.C. area and covers the Detroit Red Wings for THW. As a former junior and college hockey player, Tony has a unique perspective on Red Wings topics.