The discussion today on Twitter, according to my very intensive research of looking once, looks like it springs from Adidas’s acquisition of the jersey-making rights for the NHL in a couple years (though they own Reebok so have kind of already been doing this). This has led to speculation, if not outright acceptance, that ads on jerseys are coming and we’re all just going to have to get used to it.
This feels like a subject that I should get a little angry about. And I kind of want to. But I don’t. Maybe it’s just straight up defeat, as we all know what’s coming so why waste emotion about it. Or maybe it just isn’t that big of a deal? Honestly, I’m not sure which or what combination of both it is. We also seem to go through this every couple of years with every new deal or some owner or commish bringing up the idea, and then it never quite happens. But we know the vending machine is really rocking back and forth on it now.
There’s a couple conflicting things here. One, we already kind of do have ads on jerseys and have for a while. Reebok has had their insignia right under the collar ever since they started making these things. So did CCM. Or whoever else. You make them, you get to brand them. And it certainly didn’t distract anyone, I don’t think.
Second, I’m sure some of you are guessing I’m going to point to soccer jerseys, being the footy fan that I am. But I don’t think they’re a similar case. Soccer shirts before they had ads on them didn’t have anything on them. It wasn’t like they were quite as iconic as hockey or baseball jerseys are to us, because they were just basically colored shirts. Here, look:
(Yes, in the interest of fairness I didn’t just put up a Liverpool shirt and yes, putting the ManUre one up there made me physically ill).
Maybe it’s just me, but adding an ad in what was simply blank space isn’t that huge of a deal, though I’m sure there was some pushback in Europe when it first happened. Now, it’s not even a thing that’s talked about unless it’s really silly (like when Athletico Madrid was sponsored my a movie production company and their shirt ad changed every week to whatever movie the company wanted to push. Or when Getafe’s shirts were sponsored by Burger King and they had the King inside the shirt for when players flipped their jerseys over the head, which I thought was kind of genius?)
Hockey jerseys are obviously different. There isn’t some huge swath of blank space, and anything on the front would feel shoehorned in and just odd-looking. Every team has a logo that is iconic to its fanbase I guess, and perhaps we feel some gloss would be lost if it’s juxtaposed with “PEPSI” right next to it.
I don’t know though, I think there’s probably a way to do it to not be distracting, or excessively distracting, and not end up looking like the picture that kicked off this whole post. We don’t notice the ads on the ice or the boards any more, because they’re not beating us over the head with them like they do in Europe (seriously, you can’t even see the puck sometimes on those surfaces). An ad that used the same color background as whatever jersey it was on? It could probably work. Or maybe under the arms down the sides? Probably not going to generate as much revenue if it’s covered up half the time but it could work. If it ran along the bottom of the stripes? Something like this? Would this be the end of the world?
Now I’m not advocating for this. But we all know we can’t duck it forever so I’m just trying to find a way where it won’t like, send us into anaphylactic shock upon sight. Secondly, we of course cannot count on the powers that be to have taste be a consideration at all when there’s dollah dollah bills y’all on the line. But this kind of thing, this style of ad, is the kind you wouldn’t even notice after a season or two, I’m guessing.
I know, it’s kind of the last frontier. If we acquiesce to ads on jerseys, it feels like nothing is sacred anymore and basically we’ve surrendered the last bit of territory we had left that wasn’t maxed out for capitalism. And once you completely give up, they could make the jerseys look like (alleged wiener tucker) Rick Nash up there and we’d have lost the will to even care any more. Perhaps it’s just placation, and that’s never a terribly good place to be. But we’re so outgunned in this fight anyway…
Now, if Adidas tries to add their signature three stripes to the shoulders of Hawks jerseys, I’m grabbing a flame-thrower.