Sign of the Times: Penguins Game Jersey ads are here

Over the years, advertisers have increasingly found a place on NHL game days. First, in 2010, the league allowed teams to find additional sponsorship for training jerseys. A few years ago the sides of helmets were allowed for games. Starting this season, teams can sell an ad on their actual match day kit.

The Penguins adopted this early on and will have a long-time medical sponsor on their jerseys this year.

ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski has a nice article about the league’s opinions and outlook on where these promotional methods stand and what might be next. In short, and as so often, the NHL follows the lead of other great North American pros. The NBA has had jersey advertising since 2017-18. Baseball isn’t far behind, they will have helmet ads this fall and move to shirt ads on their sleeves next season.

The reasoning is simple enough, it’s a new revenue stream for a company trying to generate as much cash as possible. The NBA has recorded $150 million in extra money annually coming in for little effort or hassle.

The NHL leaders are taking what they say is a “conservative approach” to being very careful about what they allow and putting the green light on jerseys, but opinions can differ on this given that it’s the Washington Capitals is represented a sports betting company on their sweaters.

For now, the NHL has pushed back on the notion that more is to come, as teams are limited to one sponsor on their jersey and have no plans to “NASCAR-ize” uniforms with multiple advertisers. Similarly, the NHL has touted its “tasteful ice” and “tasteful boards” to avoid looking like professional European hockey, with seemingly every available inch of rink plastered with colorful ads.

Overall, the league doesn’t seem overly concerned that fan backlash will either be high or even so warranted. As Keith Wachtel, the NHL’s chief business officer and executive vice president of global partnerships, told ESPN:

“It’s a small stain. We know how important the front of the sweater is. There’s no reason to change that,” said Wachtel. “Anyone getting hysterical about it is hearing the wrong hype or on Twitter. We have no intention of doing anything like NASCAR or what they do in European sport.”

Up to this point, it’s a fairly small speck that would roughly blend in if the sponsor color didn’t contrast with the team’s color scheme. Take this video recently posted by the penguins, with no real reaction to the ad that snuck onto the sweater.

ESPN also addressed the very natural question of what this means for consumers looking to buy NHL jerseys and what the future of the merchandise will hold.

The authentic Adidas jerseys sold online do not have sponsor patches. The NHL jersey advertising policy states that teams should only display a sponsor patch in arena stores if fans so request — otherwise, they have the option to purchase an authentic jersey without the patch.

Wachtel said this setup could change in the future. From now on, fans can only get the patch in this way.

The “Breakaway” fan replica jerseys will also feature no sponsor patches for the 2022-23 season, according to Fanatics. Basically, any jersey purchased from the NHL e-commerce store will not have a jersey patch.

It will be interesting to see how or if the merchandising or fan behavior changes. With sports like the English Premier League, it’s natural for fans to buy their favorite ‘kit’, which features a giant logo of an airline or bank or other sponsor on the chest, just like their teams wear on the pitch .

This latest sponsorship opportunity, while highly visible, is only the latest in a long line of sporting events. For example, if you go to a penguin game, you will enter a sponsored arena through a sponsored gate and possibly pass through the club area (insert liquor or alcohol stamps here). Where you will see four ads on the ice, many on the boards and even a sponsored mini airship flying around dropping little Chotskys from the sky.

It’s the world we live in, with marketing and advertising ties from start to finish of games, not to mention the television breaks to get all the promotional messages paying for the media rights that the teams and the league also get.

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