There has long been a fight against it from hockey-purists, but it appears that battle may soon be coming to an end. According to a report by Sports Business Journal, advertisements and sponsorships on NHL sweaters could be coming to the league as early as the 2022-23 season.
For the 2021 season, the NHL allowed sponsorships on team helmets to help off-set the financial losses felt from the COVID-19 pandemic and the loss of gate revenue across the league. The helmet ads have helped teams immensely this season and have taken nothing away form the aesthetics of the game or team uniforms. According to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, NHL clubs saved more than $100 million in revenue through new sponsorships in the 2021 season.
Adding ads and sponsorships to the sweaters is a risky proposition, but could end up doing wonders for the league, which is miles behind the NFL, NBA, and MLB when it comes to financial standing across the board.
From the report:
In recent weeks, NHL clubs have been conducting valuation work — some with third-party sports sponsorship and marketing agencies as well as valuation firms — to determine what a jersey patch and helmet decal could both be worth before eventually providing that data to the league, sources said. In other words, what’s the business and revenue case for formally adopting the new sponsorship assets, some sources described.
This isn’t a new concept in the world of sports. European professional leagues have had ads and sponsorships on uniforms for many years. In the US, ads on jerseys have appeared more frequently in recent years. In April 2016, NBA owners approved an initial three-year pilot program for jersey ads, which began with the 2017-18 season and has since been extended indefinitely.
Of course, when you look at any European hockey team’s sweaters, they are skating billboards. It’s ugly, but I don’t feel like the NHL, a league so prideful of their beautiful team uniforms and logos, will allow ads and sponsorships to get that out of control (Michael: Those sound like soon-to-be famous last words). A small patch on the sleeve or small patch on the shoulder would do nothing to take away from the viewing experience of the games in-person or on television.
Plus, you can still sell the team sweaters without the sponsorship patches on them for those worried about wearing something with an ad on it. I’m all for the NHL doing whatever necessary, within reason, to generate more revenue for teams and the league to operate in a growing sports financial world.