Wednesday, May 17, 2017

'Ad' Nauseum

In a time long, long ago, a NHL rink was devoid of any advertisements.  There weren't any beer or car logos soiling the white ice or the rink boards.  Those times have changed and then some.  Starting in the 1980s, teams began to sell advertisements on the boards, then the ice.  Over time, the ads have evolved.  Now, thanks to technology, they can be digitally projected onto the glass for the viewers at home.  During the 2016 World Cup of Hockey (more on that later), digital ads were injected into the television broadcasts, while the fans at the Air Canada Centre saw old fashion banners on the boards.  Today, if a game was played without any advertisements, it would actually be a shock, as fans have become completely use to them.

It could be worse.

It could be like in Europe, where ads litter the ice completely, as well as the players.

NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman, has gone on record as saying the NHL has no plans on ads on jerseys...for now.  But, as NBA teams take to the floor with a small ad patch on the left chest on their jerseys, beginning in 2017-18, how long will NHL owners continue to sit on the bench and watch as money slips through their hands.  Its not like ads don't already appear on NHL jerseys, after all, albeit on practice jerseys.

When the NHL and Reebok were set to introduce an entirely new uniform system, which Reebok had dubbed RBK Edge, a rumour swirling around was that goalies would wear a different colour jersey, much like they do in soccer, and would feature advertising.  Thankfully, it didn't happen, along with the players having to tuck in their jerseys into their hockey pants.  So, the idea of ads on jerseys have been kicking around for some time, it's just that the NHL wasn't willing to be the first.

Back to the World Cup of Hockey.  The NHL tested the waters of how well ads on jerseys might be received by fans by placing tech company SAP's logo on the shoulder of all eight World Cup jerseys.  No financial terms were released.  Fans, suffice to say, do not like the idea of any advertisement on the jerseys.  It should be noted that the retail jerseys fans can buy didn't feature the ads.  But, that might only have been because the SAP sponsorship was announced after the the jerseys were already on sale.  Don't be surprised if the all-star game jerseys are next to be tested out.

The Cleveland Cavaliers became the latest team to sign an ad deal just a couple of days ago, signing with Goodyear.  They are the sixth team to do so.  The deal is reportedly for $10 million over the next 3 years, as the NBA test the waters and whether or not to continue with ads after those 3 years.  Goodyear's winged foot logo will even appear on hats and t-shirts.  Admittedly, the logo which is in Cleveland's colours, didn't look out of place on the hats and t-shirts, and if one didn't know it was Goodyear, might think it was just part of the design.

NHL teams won't command $10 million a year.  Other NBA teams won't even get that much.  Even the big market NHL teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs or Chicago Blackhawks would be unlikely to be able to charge that much.  But, they should still get a premium over what lesser teams like the Arizona Coyotes and Florida Panthers might be able to ask for.  It has been suggested that the league could generate an extra $120 million in ad revenue.  

My opinion on the ads is that the NHL should stay away from them.  The jersey is sacred and shouldn't be sullied by an advertisement for McDonald's or Molson or anything else.  It would a kin to selling one's soul.  And for what?  The price of a third liner or fifth defencemen?  Sure, some teams could use that extra revenue, but if you are already losing millions every year, then you've got some bigger problems. 

Will it happen?  Unfortunately , probably.  It is unlikely to happen until for another few years as the NHL studies how it goes down with the NBA.  In the end, ads on jerseys may become as normal as ads on the boards and ice.