In the fifth issue of The Peak, published on September 29, writer Nick Bondi argued that the NHL should sell ad space on their jerseys. His argument essentially boiled down to the fact that “it’s inevitable” (his words) and would “make a hell of a lot of money” (my words).
While I don’t necessarily disagree with either of these claims, I believe that desecrating sports’ most beautiful uniforms for the sake of corporate dollars would be an absolute travesty and isn’t something fans should just take lying down.
The NHL has already allowed advertisers into almost every facet of the game.Whether you’re at the arena or you stay home, you can’t escape an onslaught of promotions for McDonald’s, Budweiser, and other key components to a healthy lifestyle.
The jerseys, however, are still relatively untouched and pure, a remaining symbol of what sports were about before commercialization. Sure, they have the word “Reebok” stitched on the back but, other than that, a jersey still embodies a team and a city instead of any company.
If I wear a Canucks jersey, I’m only advertising for the Canucks and the city of Vancouver, something I can be proud of (most of the time). To me, that’s all a jersey should be communicating: the history and culture of the team, and the city in which they play.
As soon as you add corporate branding to the uniforms, it ceases to be that simple. There may be a similar storied rivalry between Pizza Hut and Domino’s as there is between the Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins, but those fights should be held in different venues.
Unlike board ads or TV commercials, jerseys are for the fans to have and to hold. They’re the last vestige of unspoiled team pride and need to stay that way.
Authentic NHL jerseys already cost upwards of $300, and I don’t want to pay anything close to that to be a walking billboard for whichever company pays for the real estate on my favourite NHL team’s upper chest.
As Bondi states in his article, the main reason that the NHL is opposed to instituting ads right now is that they don’t want to be the first of the big four leagues to do it. This essentially means they’re going to wait until about five years after the NBA does it, seeing as that’s how long commissioner Adam Silver believes his league will hold out on them.
If the NHL wants to keep any integrity, though, they will do whatever they can to not follow in the footsteps of a league that actually refers to a last-second shot, on their official website, as a “Taco Bell buzzer-beater.”
I understand that professional sports are part of the entertainment business and that, above all else, the NHL exists to make money, but I hope they at least try to keep that aim subtle. Having ads right on players’ jerseys crosses a line — nothing would be sacred anymore and the league would lose all my respect.
It’s like product placement in movies. I don’t love when a character in a movie is clearly drinking a Pepsi, but I’ll sit through the movie, nonetheless. If they stick King Kong in a giant Pepsi sweater, though, I’m walking out.
I really hope the NHL can maintain some integrity, not ruin their jerseys, and keep that 6,000lb Pepsi-sweater-wearing monkey in it’s cage where it belongs.