August 05, 2009
Speaking with Dan Tencer on his CHED radio show last night, the topic of advertisements on jerseys came up again. We discussed it here last week, opening up a sprawling debate about revenue generation vs. hockey tradition. Tencer made two intriguing arguments about why sweater adverts could work:
1. The NHL, and especially its weaker markets, need all the revenue they can get.
This is a basic plank in any pro-commercialization platform, and an argument made easier with the global economy in recession, with the lack of ancillary revenue for the NHL and teams in some U.S. markets battling money woes. When the Phoenix Coyotes are in bankruptcy court, and only a rearranging of their arena lease and local tax codes will keep them in Glendale, a slogan on a jersey doesn't exactly seem like a drastic measure.
Until you start thinking about how something like ads on uniforms could be implemented fairly. Or without making hockey jerseys that will melt your retinas into goo, like the Euro league ones above.
That was my argument with Tencer: The Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers are who they are; the Atlanta Thrashers and Florida Panthers are who they are. If we allow teams to raise revenue with ad sales on jerseys like they raise it with local ads around the arena, what we'll see is class disparity: The Rangers land Macy's, some other market gets Chico's Bail Bonds.
Tencer's counterargument: What about having the NHL sell ad space to national advertisers, making these human billboards (pardon the pun) completely uniform?
If this eventually comes to pass, that's the way to implement it: League-wide, or national, sponsors. Otherwise, the NHL is going to have to police overeager teams that will sell from the socks to the visor.
Unless, as Tencer said:
2. What if the advertisements are restricted to the tops of the sleeves, like a patch?
Oy. The fence-sitters, and there are a few when it comes to ads on jerseys, might just topple over to the pro-commercialization side with this idea.
It's a logical, agreeable thought: Just a few logos here or there, and nobody looking like a skyscraper from "Blade Runner." What's the complaint about a McDonald's/Tim Horton's patch on the shoulder, if it means the Winged Wheel or the Indian Head are safe from promotional besmirching?
Here's the complaint: Don't. Give. Them. An. Inch.
"Fans don't mind advertisements on the boards? Then we can put them on the ice, too!"
"The ice is acceptable? Well, how about we digitally insert them on the glass during games?
"Fans are totally cool with these shoulder advertisements, right? Because Waste Management just called and offered to triple their sponsorship number if we move them from the side of the shoulder to the front. Not a biggie, right?"
Sorry, but I just don't trust the NHL not to succumb to the siren's song of sponsorship money. Not when NHL.com is contractually obligated to refer to it as "The 2010 Bridgestone/NHL Winter Classic."
Finally on the jersey advertising front comes this post from Bill "Rawhide" Tiller over on AJC's Ice Man blog, who loathes the idea of logos on the sweaters ... but:
Now, I honestly don't think it's too much of a stretch to think that we'll soon see the day when a small logo could be added to NHL jerseys for a corporate sponsor...much like the Kroger patch on those worn by the ECHL's Gwinnett Gladiators. I suppose it's inevitable...where there is a dollar to be made, a dollar will indeed be made...whether I, or anyone else for that matter, like it or not.
I hope it doesn't, but if and when such a day should ever come, I hope the league officials will temper their enthusiasm and desire for the extra money that could be generated by advertisement with the wisdom and foresight of not allowing the sport to degenerate into nothing more than "Ads on Ice and turn the players into Billboards on Skates".
I agree with Tiller's basic premise: Ads on jerseys are inevitable, and the best we can hope is that the NHL restricts them to places on the sweater that won't ruin its integrity as the greatest uniform in sports.
But I'm not holding my breath: