LOS ANGELES – Next season, the NBA will feature advertising on its jerseys.
The Boston Celtics, for example, recently unveiled how their General Electric logo will look on their uniforms. Boston guard Terry Rozier offered this review of the new look: “I like free money.”
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has long said his league wouldn’t be first in putting ads on jerseys. Since he no longer has to worry about that timing aspect, are jersey ads in the NHL on their way?
“It’s not an active discussion among NHL clubs,” Bettman said. “I always said we wouldn’t be first. OK, great. The NBA is doing it. But it would take an unusual circumstance – which I would define as ‘a lot of money that I’m having trouble comprehending right now’ – for us to even be thinking about it.”
The NHL has, of course, thought about it for years. Former NHL COO John Collins said in Nov. 2014 that jersey sponsorships were “coming and happening.” The NHL and the NHLPA put ads on World Cup of Hockey jerseys when that event was resurrected last year, and many felt it was a test run as they were also the first uniforms designed by Adidas.
“You’ll say, well, you did it in the World Cup. The fact of the matter is the World Cup jerseys aren’t like NHL team jerseys,” said Bettman.
No, they’re not. First, the NHL shouldn’t have trouble finding sponsors for jersey advertisements on its 31 teams – unlike in the World Cup, when the NHL was asking companies for $6 million, they couldn’t find any takers and then settled for SAP, a company the NHL already pays to assist in its data collection and presentation.
Second, NHL team jerseys carry a bit more prestige and history than, say, that of Team Europe.
Say what you will about Bettman, but he’s always had a traditionalist streak. (See also: Playoff Overtime.) He understands the history that comes with some of the more iconic jerseys in the NHL, and he also understands the levels of fan backlash if the advertising became too ungainly.
“The fact of the matter is we take great pride in our sweaters. We think they’re the best in all of sports, and that’s not something we’re running off to do. We think what we have is special. We talk about history and tradition and how special hockey jerseys are,” he said.
At a time when the NBA has opened up that revenue stream and the NHL is on the verge have having redesigned jerseys next season, Bettman said those aren’t harbingers of jerseys ads for hockey.
“We’re not looking to put advertising on our sweaters,” he said.
Of course, if a sponsor did happen to have “a lot of money that Bettman could comprehend,” perhaps things change for the Board of Governors …
DISAGREE WITH THE NHL’S PICKS? HERE’S AN ALTERNATIVE: