Traditionalists, shield your eyes. The NHL is bringing sponsorships and advertisements to the World Cup jerseys.
According to Sports Business Daily’s Ben Fischer, NHL chief marketing officer Brian Jennings spoke at the Brand Engagement Summit in Chicago and said that the league is going to test on-jersey advertisements at the upcoming World Cup. For those picturing European league-style patches spread across the entire jersey, don’t worry, the league isn’t going that far. For the time being, it appears the ads will only be placed on the shoulders of the jerseys.
Advertisements on the jerseys are sure to create a stir, but Fischer reported that Jennings and the league are looking at this as a test. The league will be watching and listening to what fans have to say about the ads, and that could potentially have some sway on how the league operates regarding jersey ads moving forward.
"With the use of technology, you’re in a real-time dialogue that lets you know what they think and feel about it,” Jennings said, via Fischer.
It’s been long-rumored the World Cup jerseys would feature ads, but Jennings’ comments make it a certainty. Putting the ads on the World Cup jerseys isn’t far from what’s seen at the World Championship, though. At the 2016 IIHF tournament, Canadian players wore ads on their sleeves, as did USA, Russia, Sweden and other nations. Advertising at international tournaments is nothing new.
Little is known about the actual ads that will be on the jerseys. Aside from knowing the location — the shoulders — there is no information on what the ads will look like. The shape and size of the ads, the brands that have snapped up the on-jersey real estate and the way the revenue generated from the ads will be divided are unknowns at this point.
The NHL won't be the first North American league to bring advertisements to jerseys, though the league isn't exactly going as far as the NBA, which approved on-jersey ads beginning in the 2017-18 season. The ad space — two-and-a-half inch square patches — were approved in mid-April, and by mid-May the Philadelphia 76ers became the first NBA team to sell the ad space, inking a deal with StubHub.
None of this means that ads on jerseys are imminent for the NHL’s 30 teams, but it’s a step towards that if things go off without a hitch at the World Cup.