As long as I’ve watched NHL games I only ever remember seeing advertising on the boards. I can say without a doubt that I’ve never paid that much attention to the ads on the boards but if they’re not there man do the boards stick out like a sore thumb. As we plow through the delay in starting the new season we’ve seen classic games shown on the tv and a lot of those games have boards without ads on them and to me they just don’t seem right. I imagine that when teams started selling ad space on their boards there were a lot of purists out there claiming this would be a travesty to the sport. That the selling out of board space to billionaire clients would be the beginning of the end. “Where does it end? Do we replace the names on the back with ads for beer companies?” Well we haven’t hit that point yet thankfully, but there’s a reason we have ads sold on the boards, those superstars we all love to see streaking up the wing and scoring goals don’t come cheap. Also paying to staff a team and a front office, doctors, trainers, buy equipment, pay for travel, hotel costs, etc doesn’t come cheap as well. So with costs rising in the 80s particularity in the salary department owners turned to selling the blank pristine boards to advertisers. As I said earlier I don’t remember watching any games without ads on the boards, but I’m sure the detractors of board advertising today would be happy to know the quality of play has only gotten better and hasn’t affected the on ice product.
On ice though is where the next stage of open space for advertising transitioned. Again the big anti money generating fans couldn’t wrap their heads around why these billionaire owners needed to sell ice space to other billionaires to advertise on! “We won’t be able to follow the puck! It takes away from the purity of the sport…….baaaaahhhhh humbug!” Again I point to the rising cost of employing a fully staffed team to put out on the ice. I’ve noticed the ice ad spots seem to be standard, Centre Ice circle. 4 in the neutral zone, and now 4 outside the trapezoids in each end zone below the goal line. Apparently having a sports team in the top league in the world isn’t cheap so we continue to see advertising put wherever owners can find the place to put them. This upcoming season sees the largest revenue generating source for each team not in the building. Yes that’s ticket holders, so the NHL has allowed owners to seek out companies that wish to advertise on the teams helmets. “Ok now this is going to far!” Our intrepid protectors of the purity of the game are saying. “We allow this on helmets then they’ll be pasting ads on the jerseys next, then the socks, and the pants, then the front of the jersey!” Ok. I get you all worry about the over abundance of advertising on the players as they skate around the ice. I’m here to say it won’t matter. You’ll still cheer for your favourite team just as passionately as you did any other season without ads all over the place. You’ll continue to watch the games on tv or at the rink and yell at the top of your lungs when your team scores. Not one of you will cheer less loudly because there’s more advertising out there because we cheer for our teams no matter the advertising on the front, back, shoulder, pants or anywhere else they get money from a company to advertise themselves.
Look no further than over the Atlantic. Football teams all have a major sponsor that pay a lot of money to be front and centre. Let’s take a look at the jersey of Man Utd. The current sponsor on their jersey is Chevrolet and they are paying the team a measly 64 million Great British Pounds for the 20/21 season alone. That’s about 110 million Canadian dollars, HELLO! Here’s the amount Chevrolet spent to sponsor the jersey each of the past 6 seasons since taking over as the premiere advertiser on Man Utd jersey.
19/20 64 Million GBP
18/19 47 Million GBP
17/18 47 Million GBP
16/17 47 Million GBP
15/16 47 Million GBP
14/15 47 Million GBP
Including this season that’s 363 million GBP to have the Chevy logo emblazoned across the front of the Man Utd jerseys! Wow! There is a search underway for next years sponsor as Chevy extended this year for this one season, I can only imagine what that sponsor will pay going forward. Note that the Chevy logo far outsizes the team shield, the team is more noted for the colours then the logo on the front. The change of sponsors also drives jersey sales as when a team changes sponsors every 4-6 years all the fans have the desire to get the newest kit. Millions of fans shell out money and buy the newest jersey, which is a great way to always keep the jerseys flying off the shelf. The same happens in my beloved sort of rugby, the teams have advertising on the jerseys, shorts, socks etc, all in the name of increasing revenue for the team and therefore the owner. Now hold your horses! You’ll say I’d never shell out for a New Jersey every 4 years! Right that’s why at every Oilers game I go to 90 percent of you are wearing the new silks! If we could go to games this season how many of you would be rocking the slick new white reverse retro’s. (There’s a reason each team has four jerseys this year, so you’d buy them to increase revenue)
I get it, we’d hate to see our little NHL league “sell out” but if we want to continue to see our little league first survive, then thrive, we have to accept adverts on helmets for now, and eventually elsewhere on our favourite teams uniforms. We shouldn’t forget that the owners of sports teams are businessmen and businesswomen that have other companies that make money for them and the sports team ownership is just their shiny toy. If the shiny toy loses its shine, well crazy things happen, like the sale of a really good player, or the relocation of a team, or it up and folds. All things none of us fans of the NHL or any sport would like to see happen. So we need to come to terms with more and more advertising on our favourite teams and players as the years move on so that the teams we love stay profitable. I’m not afraid to say that I’m perfectly fine with the direction the NHL is taking in the advertising department but maybe it’s just me?
Nels Nelson is an occasional guest on YEG Sports, he also is a playwright, podcaster, referee of hockey and Rugby, fan of a lot of sports, a proud husband and proud father. He also works tirelessly cleaning up the streets of YEG.