Whenever advertising on hockey jerseys is brought up, a good portion of the fan base sounds alarm sirens, runs around frantically and begins clutching every vintage sweater they can find, like a child holding a security blanket.
While other fans shrug and point to the ice and the boards and say, "What's a few more ads, really?"
We all realize that ads on jerseys are coming. It’s just a matter of how soon they’ll arrive. But according to Rick Westhead of TSN, they won’t be seen where we all expected we’d find them first: The World Cup of Hockey in Toronto this September.
Westhead reports that the ads program is likely “on hold” because the NHL and the NHLPA couldn’t secure sponsorship for the eight-team tournament.
The NHL and NHLPA asked for roughly $8 million from companies for jersey ads during the Toronto-based World Cup and negotiated with companies including Geico, McDonald’s, Pepsi and Honda, a source familiar with negotiations told TSN.
“The ask was $8 million. The hope was the NHL would get at least $6 million and that just didn’t happen,” an NHL source told TSN. “The problem is that even though this tournament will be on ESPN, most global marketers see this as a Canadian event that won’t create much of a buzz in the U.S.”
Now, keep in mind that Westhead writes, "It's still possible the league and players' association will lower the price for a main jersey sponsor and find a partner."
If they don't, this is a gut-punch on several levels.
First off, the NHL obviously feels this tournament will play in the U.S., or at least that’s the hope. The League has made significant gains in U.S. viewership, and in attention paid to events like the Winter Classic and the Stanley Cup. Frankly, if this thing is ever going to be a surrogate for Olympic participation – or at the very least, leverage against the IOC – it can’t be “a Canadian event.”
Which is why one partners with ESPN, still seen by NHL brass as an influencer for American sports tastes. The Worldwide Leader has pumped out plenty of digital ink on team projections and the like on its website. The U.S. team’s initial roster will be revealed on SportsCenter on March 2.
The other gut-punch is that this was supposed to be a financial windfall for the League and the players.
Remember when projections were around $100 million for the tournament? Now it appears there won’t be ads on jerseys and the strips of tickets for the event – held in the Centre of the Hockey Universe, no less – have yet to sell out.
Frankly, we think the global marketers are wrong on this one. The World Cup is going to be a success in the U.S. Fans are going to tune in for U.S. vs. Canada. They’ll tune in for Russia. They’ll tune in for the novelty of it. No, it’s not the Olympics. But if there’s one easy sell for a general viewing audience, it’s jingoism, something we seen in everything from international women’s soccer ratings to the Ryder Cup.
So the bad news is that “global marketers” don’t share that faith. But the good news is that NHL jerseys aren’t going to look like this in the near future …
… so we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.
Besides, ads would have totally detracted from the skull and crossbones THAT TOTALLY BETTER BE THE LOGO FOR THE EUROPEAN MISFITS TEAM.
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