October 05, 2010
According to team executive vice president Jay Blunk, via the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Blackhawks are going to be one of two franchises in the NHL that will have advertisements on their practice jerseys (the other being the Calgary Flames) after cutting a deal with the Giordano's pizza chain.
(Fun Fact: Jay Blunk begins every meeting by saying, "I'm going to be Blunk with you.")
As you can see on the Jonathan Toews(notes) sweater featured here, the pizza logo will be a patch on the upper right of the jersey's front -- a safe distance away from that more vital corporate logo from Reebok.
"Right now the economy is dictating that not only advertising, but sports teams, deliver real value," Blunk said. "So we have to look at everything. We have to consider things like advertising on our sweaters."
To reinforce its brand message, Giordano's -- a first-time marketing partner with the Blackhawks -- also will sponsor practice content in the Blackhawks TV section of the team's Web site, ChicagoBlackhawks.com, and get exposure at each of the team's 2010-11 regular-season home games.
The NFL pioneered this selling of practice jersey advertising space, and it made sense: TV stations that didn't have access to game footage would opt for practice footage, and the logos would get great exposure.
In the NHL's case, we're guessing it's a perk in a larger sponsorship deal for Giordano's and a test model for the Blackhawks to eventually sell more space. (And really, who wouldn't want to see Toews and Kane looking like this one day?)
What we hope: That it's not a small crack on the dam that's going to lead to a flood of advertising on game jerseys eventually.
As you know, we treat the hockey sweater as sacrosanct.
That said: Sell the hell out of the practice sweaters.
Anytime an NHL club can create an added revenue stream that doesn't inconvenience fans, affect the entertainment value of the product or tarnish the glorious tradition of The Game, go for it. Honestly, we don't care if Patrick Sharp(notes) skates around warm-ups wearing a sandwich board from The Weiner's Circle. OK, that's not entirely true, as we'd run the hell out of the photo on a weekly basis ...
But it's the old "give'em an inch" theory: Allow ads on practice jerseys, have teams make bank, and then try to tell them they can't make even bigger bank on selling ad space on home sweaters. It's an argument the NHL would have a hard time winning in this economy, and if enough teams are banging down their doors for it.
Here's the official NHL line on jersey ad sales, via deputy commissioner Bill Daly in a Q&A/speech in Washington, D.C., last weekend:
"With regard to ads on uniforms, the whole business area of sports evolves over time. People in this room probably remember a time when there was no advertising on dasher boards, and now there is. So things change.
"We have not taken the step of allowing clubs to advertise on their game uniforms at this point. We did enact a new policy -- and I do think we're a little behind the other sports leagues in doing this -- to allow clubs to sell advertising on their practice jerseys.
"But we are not actively considering changing that rule, at least at this point. But who knows what the future might hold."
As we've said before: The NHL suits are the gatekeepers. They've battled for the side of good and light when it comes to fighting, playoff overtime and the 16-team playoff format. In each case, hockey tradition won over the bottom line; can that continue?
With that, we'll again offer our middle-ground solution: Ads on third jerseys. Hell, for the teams that don't have them, auction off the main logo for $10 million. How about a Devils sweater featuring the Prudential rock with horns on it?