‘You’d Have to Drag Me Kicking and Screaming’

After holding off for so many years, NHL finally approves advertisements on team jerseys

NHL agrees to jersey ads for 2022-2023 season

What’s Happening: After being quoted in 2015 as saying, “You’d have to drag me kicking and screaming” when responding to whether or not teams would have ads on their jerseys, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has given his approval to allow NHL teams to have advertisements on their jerseys. While Bettman’s stance has changed over the years from a “hard no” back in 2015 to a “maybe” as recently as this year, the change in his stance is not all that surprising. After all, the NBA has allowed teams to have advertisers on their jerseys for years, and many European hockey teams in their national leagues have their jerseys littered with advertisers. 

Why It Matters: Bettman’s change of heart comes at a crucial time for NHL clubs. Many teams, in particular the Canadian teams, were absolutely battered financially by COVID-19. For the entire past season, Canadian teams had no fans in the stands to watch their games and in the United States, teams operated at varying capacities depending on the COVID case numbers in that region. 

The NHL did experiment with advertisers on helmets last season. It was a resounding success and helped to offset some of the financial burden teams faced. It’s estimated that teams generated more than $100 million in revenue from the helmet ads last season. When you factor in that, more often than not, the ads on helmets were largely unnoticed, you can only imagine the revenues that ads on jerseys are expected to bring NHL clubs. Not only will the ads be more prominent visually, they also will be bigger than helmet ads. The NHL is allowing these ads to be 3-by-3.5 inches in size, which is larger than what the NBA allows advertisers on their jerseys.

The Bigger Picture: Without stating the obvious, this is a huge win for both the NHL and NHL clubs. The NHL’s Chief Business Officer, Keith Wachtel, is quoted as saying, “We honestly believe that the overall program is worth hundreds of millions of dollars on a yearly basis.” But on a deeper level, this will help the NHL to attract newer sponsors and companies to the game of hockey. If the game continues to grow in small and mid-market American cities like the Carolinas and Nashville, the NHL can hope to entice more sponsors to want to align with the NHL in terms of advertising. 

The biggest winner however, belongs to the individual NHL clubs. This extra windfall of cash will help teams maintain their operations without having to rely on the traditional means of generating income — such as ticket and merchandise sales. For teams that have long struggled financially, the revenue from these ad placements will ensure their survival … for now. For mid-market teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins, their President, David Morehouse, has gone on the record to say that, "It's a game-changer for us financially." 

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