|Advertising on NFL Uniforms|
(Original Courtesy of Associated Press)
Advertising on the uniforms of professional sports teams is a foreign concept; foreign because almost every league outside of the United States does it. Whether it be a product name on the front of the jersey, patches on the shoulders, or a logo on the back, every sport from soccer to golf to cricket is doing it. While the "original" four professional sports leagues have been in existence for a combined 400 years, one has to wonder why the leagues have been so resistant to this tremendous marketing opportunity.
Just a few weeks ago, NBA team owners announced that they had agreed to sell advertising rights for a 2" x 2" patch on the shoulders of their uniforms starting with the 2013 season. WHAT! Has the world's axis shifted slightly with this news? Talking heads across America were up in arms saying things like, "first it's a patch, then it's the whole uniform, what is this soccer?"
Does this mean that we will see Tom Brady and the New England Patriots take the field with the logo for "Tampax" emblazoned across their chests?
We take a look at how uniform sponsorship ranks in the world of soccer and how America might finally come to grips with marketing on sacred sports clothing.
Let's go back and look at the NBA deal. The owners claim, according to their press release, that they believe they can collect a total of $100M in advertising fees per year if they can acquire deals for all 30 of their teams. That would mean each patch, all four square inches of it would sell for over $3M on average with teams like the Lakers and Celtics being more and the Bobcats and Raptors being less. That's a pretty big number when you consider that the English Premier League collected a total of $164M (US) in advertising fees for their 20 teams last season. Keep in mind, the logos in the EPL take up the majority of the front of the uniforms, not a little tiny shoulder patch.
Advertising is not new in the EPL, it has been going on since the early 1980's when Manchester United signed a deal worth $750,000 with Sharp Electronics to have their name on Reds uniforms. United's current kit sponsor, Aon Insurance group is paying between $25-$30M a season, and starting in the fall of 2014 General Motors will be paying an estimated $40M per season to have Chevrolet on the uniform. General Motors, one of the biggest brands in America is paying this massive sum of money to a be on arguably the biggest sports brand in the world.
But it's not all massive dollars and the highest level brand names jumping at the chance to be associated with soccer teams. Last season, Sunderland was sponsored by Tombola which probably doesn't ring a bell, unless you are big into the world of online BINGO. Then there are the sponsors for Wigan, West Ham, Swansea, Stoke, and Aston Villa that are all tied to either online betting websites or casinos. Perhaps the best one of all for this season is newly promoted Reading who will be sponsored by Waitrose an online grocery shopping company.
So getting back to Tampax and Tom Brady, as in soccer, if the company is willing to pay the money, a team will put any brand on their jersey. While one would argue that Tampax is an unlikely suitor for the New England Patriots if the NFL were to approve uniform sponsors in the future, I would counter by saying half of America has first hand product knowledge of Tampax. Look at NASCAR where Viagra sponsored Mark Martin car for several season (though former Dick Trickle would have been more appropriate). In the WNBA, the Connecticut Sun is owned by and play in the Mohegan Sun casino.
The bottom line is that it is only a matter of time before the major sports leagues in America take a page from professional soccer and decide to place sponsors on their uniforms. For now it seems the rest of the leagues are taking a wait and see attitude on how the NBA fairs with their advertising effort before they decide to vandalize their own team's uniforms.