NFL, MLB Say They Aren’t Considering Ads on Uniforms

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Shane Victorino #8 of the Los Angeles Dodgers hits a single in the seventh inning against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium on August 6, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.

But once the NBA starts bringing in millions of dollars, it’s difficult to think they wouldn’t reconsider.

Next month the NBA will officially decide whether or not to place advertisements and corporate logos on player uniforms. Since NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver announced in July that there was essentially unanimous support from the league’s Board of Governors to begin placing ads on jerseys in 2013, the proposal has been denounced by sports bloggers and ridiculed by fans, many of which have tweeted against the proposal with a #NoUniAds hashtag. That’s also inspired a new, anti-ad take on the NBA logo.

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Barring fan revolt, if the NBA does move forward with the proposal, the conventional wisdom has held that the other three major North American sports leagues would be right behind. But on Friday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told The Detroit Free Press that jersey ads aren’t “actively being considered in the NFL. … We like the look that we have on the field. We have a very limited number of partners on our field in general, much less on the uniform, and we think that’s right for the NFL.”

Meanwhile in baseball – by far the most conservative and traditional of the Big Four leagues, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig told an ESPN radio show a couple weeks ago that he doesn’t expect baseball to consider uniform ads either.

“You learn never to say never, but you know, with us, uniforms are really important,” Selig said.

The fact that the NBA essentially floated the idea before it officially approves it is allowing the league to gauge what fans and the other sports think of the proposal.

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For the fans, several informal online polls show that a large majority are against it. So it’s not surprising that the NFL and MLB have initially come out against uniform ads, for now. But once the NBA starts bringing in what it projects to be $100 million in the first year, the other leagues may realize that it’s worth upsetting fans to open up a new revenue stream.

“It’s not out of the realm of possibility that everyone would follow,” says Paul Swangard, sports economist at the University of Oregon, referring to the NFL, MLB and NHL. “I think it will only be a matter of time, but there’s a long transition process that will take place.”

Part of that is seeing how it works in the NBA if it’s approved. The other leagues will be able to gauge how fans fully react to it if it’s implemented, and they will get an understanding of how much money they could each ultimately bring in. While the NBA is projecting $100 million, it could likely bring in even more than that considering the popularity of a handful of teams, including the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat, even overseas.

But the most interesting reaction has been the non-reaction from the NHL. Of the other three leagues, the NHL would be most likely to follow because it doesn’t bring in as much money as the other three leagues. And yet, there’s been no word from the NHL or Commissioner Gary Bettman one way or the other.

“I would certainly think the NHL would give this some serious thought,” says David Berri, sports economist at Southern Utah University. “They have the least revenue of the four major leagues. Clearly if the money’s there on the table and all you got to do is put ads on your uniforms, and you get $100 million, I can’t imagine you’re passing this up.”

2 comments
Raymond Chuang
Raymond Chuang

I've heard a couple of times on ESPN the very reason why soccer uniforms have sponsor names on them: there are not TV timeouts during a soccer match except at halftime, and as such, the only ways to advertise during a soccer match are signs on the side of the pitch (now heavily electronic so multiple advertisers can be accommodated) and advertising on the soccer jersey itself. 

American football and baseball, on the other hand, has periods on no action, which makes it possible to insert TV and radio ads. This is why I do not expect the NFL and MLB to follow the lead of the NBA in putting advertising on uniforms.

Chris Canales
Chris Canales

I think the success of jersey advertisements in world football/soccer is worth a mention. For example, General Motors just agreed to a shirt sponsor deal that will send $559 million into the coffers of Manchester United over seven years. Imagine if your NBA team had that much extra cash laying around.