June 03, 2009
For as much as leagues, teams and players sell out to the highest bidder, it's pretty remarkable that the the NFL, NBA and NHL have yet to start selling advertising space on its uniforms.
Soccer teams in Europe have been doing it for years. NASCAR drivers would be unrecognizable without their dozens of logo patches. Even a WNBA team is joining the fray. Now it looks like the NFL is taking baby steps toward that end.
Darren Rovell writes on his Sports Biz blog that NFL teams are now allowed to sell sponsorship patches on their practice jerseys. Can regular season jerseys be too far behind?
It's the logical next step, right? Advertisers are constantly looking at ways to increase brand awareness, which is why we have FedEx Field and The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. In an age of decreased attention spans, DVRs and countless other objects, throwing a logo on a Cowboys jersey could be one of the best ways for a brand to raise (or sustain) its awareness level.
Yeah, the NFL puts up an air of integrity by refusing to sell those rights, but that's only because they haven't received the right offer. With stadium sponsorships flailing and the Super Bowl losing major advertising partners last year, adding a logo to jerseys makes sense for both advertisers and teams. For the brands, it gives their company an identity. They'd have their logo not just on TV and in pictures, but on people wearing the jerseys in public. (I was at a bar watching the Champions League final last week and a good 75 percent of the people were wearing the Manchester United jerseys with AIG on the chest.) For the teams and the league, they get the thing they desire most: coin.
Sports leagues, including the NFL, seem to be clinging to some phony integrity about keeping the jersey a sacred place, as if selling the naming rights to the NFL combine or the Super Bowl pre-game show is somehow dignified.
As the PTI guys pointed out this week, nobody ever thought The New York Times or Washington Post would sell ad space on their front pages. But, desperate times call for desperate measures. It seems strange to think about the 49ers wearing an Apple logo or the Redskins rocking the Discovery Channel globe, but that day may be coming sooner than we think. It just makes too much sense.
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