Ads on National Hockey League jerseys?
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made kick save, after glove save, after poke check Tuesday in deflecting reporters’ questions about the league allowing ads on jerseys one of these days.
The ruckus was caused by the NHL’s new seven year agreement with Adidas to outfit teams. The financial terms of the deal were not revealed, but it didn’t keep reporters from asking other financial questions.
“We are not currently considering putting advertising on NHL jerseys,” Bettman said in a response to the first question on a conference call with reporters. “There have been no discussions formally or informally on doing that.”
He added later, “There have been some suggesting that this deal means that it’s inevitable there will be advertising on uniforms. That just is not true.”
Advertising on professional sports uniforms has been a hot topic as leagues look around for additional sources of money. Cheap Fake NFL Jerseys from China Wholesale NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said ads on jerseys are, indeed, inevitable. NHL jerseys have been perceived as a likely candidate for ads because of the widespread practice on professional hockey jerseys elsewhere in the world, just as is practiced in professional soccer.
But on Tuesday, it wasn’t even clear how big the NHL would allow the Adidas logo to be, or its location on jerseys. A league official said the matter was still under discussion.
“Our sweaters are iconic. We certainly won’t be the first (league),” Bettman said, apparently referring to the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball and not Major League Soccer which, like its global cousins, features a team sponsor’s logo prominently on the jersey front. “You’ll probably have to drag me kicking and screaming. It will take a lot, a lot, a lot of money.”
While Tuesday was billed as an announcement between the NHL and Adidas, the uniforms will have never left Germany based sports footwear and apparel brand, which has its North American headquarters in Portland.
That’s because the current uniform provider is Adidas subsidiary Reebok, which will remain the apparel provider through the 2016 17 season. Massachusetts based Reebok has shifted to fitness and away from team sports in recent years.
Talks between the league and Adidas about switching the brand sponsorship and extending the relationship began a little more than a year ago.
“We’re really important to them and we like that,” Bettman said of Adidas. “We felt whatever opportunities were out there for us and there were a number we like staying with the partners we came to the dance with.”
All major sports apparel brands were interested in the NHL deal, said Mark King, president of Adidas North America. NHL officials preferred Adidas in part because of the company’s global distribution, something he said discouraged the league from seriously entertaining Under Armour as an apparel partner. An Under Armour spokeswoman declined to respond.
Under Armour has displaced Adidas as the second best selling sports footwear and apparel brand in the United States. Both trail Nike, the world’s largest.
Adidas will actually begin outfitting NHL players next year for those competing in the eight team 2016 World Cup of Hockey in Toronto.
While the three stripes logo probably will not appear on NHL jerseys until the 2017 18 season, the company would prefer for that to happen sooner, said Mark King, president of Adidas North America in Portland. Inventory and other concerns will likely keep Reebok’s logo on the back of jerseys near the neckline through the next two NHL seasons.
In March, Adidas announced it would not seek to renew its NBA apparel contract, which expires after this season. Nike will take over with the 2016 17 season.
At the time of its announcement, Adidas officials said the company wanted to shift its attention from sponsoring leagues to sponsoring top athletes.
King backed off the company’s earlier statements slightly, saying Adidas had negotiated for months with the NBA seeking a renewal but acceptable terms could not be reached.
But signing athletes remains a top priority too, King said, pointing to partnerships with James Harden of the Houston Rockets and Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers both previously with Nike as examples.
“That does not preclude that we will not do a league deal,” King said. “We’ll look at each one, (asking) ‘Is there really a great association opportunity, branding opportunity from a business standpoint? Can we make some money on the deal?’”