The Philadelphia 76ers are the first team among the Big Four (NHL, NBA, NFL, MLB) to sell an advertisement on their jerseys, with a 2.5-by-2.5-inch StubHub logo appearing near the left shoulder.
According to ESPN’s Darren Rovell, the logos will begin appearing in the 2017-18 season as part of a three-year pilot program for the NBA. The tiny patch will generate $15 million in additional revenue for the Sixers, or one season of JaVale McGee with a few million left over.
This is obviously big news for the NHL, which has been waiting for another one of the Big Four to make the leap into jersey ad sales before it did. “We certainly won’t be the first. And you’d have to drag me kicking and screaming,” said Commissioner Gary Bettman.
But now they have the NBA to effectively set policy for the NHL when it comes to ads on jerseys.
First, from Rovell, on how the money will be split up:
NBA teams will keep half of the money generated by selling sponsorships on jerseys, and that half will be further split in two, with one portion going to the individual team that does the deal and the other going to a revenue-sharing pool. The half that does not go to the teams will be split with the players and will contribute to a rising salary cap.
So the walking billboards, uh, we mean the “players” will get half the money from these sponsorship deals.
Gentlemen, adjust your escrow payments accordingly…
And then there’s this interesting policy on how the ads will be restricted:
Teams are allowed to sell to any company so long as it doesn't deal in gambling, alcohol or politics. The NBA has given protected status -- meaning the companies' competitors can't show up on a team jersey -- to a number of its national partners: the media partners (ESPN, ABC, Turner), the apparel partner (Nike starting in 2017-18) and on-court partners Tissot (the official timekeeper) and Spalding (the official ball). No other league partners, including Ticketmaster, a StubHub competitor, are protected.
The gambling restrictions are no surprise. The alcohol one is a little, considering the proliferation of beer advertising in professional sports. Like, for example, the Coors Light Stadium Series in the NHL.
So no Labatt’s ads on hockey jerseys? No Sam Adams logos on the Boston Bruins sweaters? That's a lot of money being left on the table.
One high-level NHL executive told us it’s less about some taboo being applied to adult beverage companies than it’s about the majority of jerseys being sold to young fans. Hence, having them walking around rocking a Jack Daniels logo might not be in anyone’s best interests.
(It’s also interesting to note that the NBA will sell jerseys without logos nationally at first, with the corporate logo jerseys only available at team stores. Eventually, they’ll all have them, with the thought being that no fan would want an “inauthentic” jersey without the advertising on it. But there has been speculation that the NHL would sell a “clean” sweater and one with the ads on it. We shall see.)
According to sources, we could see ads on those spiffy new adidas NHL jerseys in the next three years.
But please note that the NHL is not the NBA. As Bettman said, "kicking and screaming."
“The NBA is made up of business men making these decisions; the NHL has hockey guys making these decisions,” said one NBA executive told us, requesting anonymity. “They’re traditionalists.”
That said: Ads on jerseys in the NHL are now just a matter of time. Provided, like, the NHL can find someone to pay for them.
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