The NFL’s $230M Jackpot: In-Game Jersey Ads

As the NFL barrels toward a potential March 4 lockout (potentially leaving a comically ridiculous $9 billion in annual revenue on the table), there have been a myriad of ideas, excuses and fanciful dreams from all sides as to how the league, the owners and the players can collectively get richer.

One idea that I haven’t seen — until now — is intriguing, but controversial: selling ad space on player’s jerseys. And as the New York Post reported recently, more than $230 million in annual advertising revenue is up for grabs if the NFL is willing to go the way of European soccer teams, NASCAR and other leagues that have opened up the most valuable advertising real estate in sports.

Personally, I have mixed feelings about this idea.

On the one hand, $230 million is a lot of money to have dangling out there and not capitalize on. That’s nearly as much money as the entire valuation of baseball’s Florida Marlins. (Forbes has the Marlins valued at $270 million.)

But the NBA, NHL and NFL already allow teams to place corporate logos on practice jerseys. Granted, that’s not the same as having YOUR LOGO HERE on Tom Brady’s jersey on Sunday afternoon in front of 20 million captive eyeballs.

As The Post rightly pointed out, there is another contentious point to keep in mind: marketers may not take too kindly to having their brand’s logo on Tom Brady’s jersey only to have a network simultaneously touting a competing brand via on-air ads.

To get a better sense of what all this means, I turned to PRBC’s resident sports marketing experts, Mike Schaffer and Jeff Esposito, for their thoughts:

Jeff’s take:

Selling advertising on the jerseys brings out an interesting dynamic and one that is not foreign to the NFL. Currently teams can sell sponsorship on practice jerseys, but not on the game unis.

While I think this could work, it presents an interesting dynamic. For example, can teams sell their own ads, or is it something league-wide?

With a team by team model, companies might be able to get a better bang for their buck by getting sponsorship on someone like the Bengals or Panthers, where as a team like the Cowboys or Steelers would demand a large premium. This could also hurt when it comes to revenue sharing and also finding sponsors that mesh with the jersey provide, currently Reebok, but soon to be Nike.

These companies pay big money to get their logos on apparel so taking away real estate from the vector or swoosh will be a tough sell. This would also become a tough sell for sponsors overall and might lessen the value of the uniform sponsorship.

One way that it might work could be something similar to the college bowl series to maximize profits for the league by selling specialized event weekends and the Super Bowl. For example, Opening Weekend, Thanksgiving games (Purdue anyone?) or the playoffs. Would give sponsors exclusivity and more exposure and well maybe the uniform supplier gets first right of refusal.

I think it could work but would take a lot of wind to make it work. There would just have to be parameters to keep up the integrity of the league and sponsors.

Mike’s take:

For decades, the NFL has tried its darndest to promote an image of the game as being above all else.  Remember, the Super Bowl became an advertising mecca because it was the freakin’ SUPER BOWL . . . not the other way around.

It’s funny that a league so focused on its moneymaking machine (video games, licensing, obstructed-view seats, etc.) would resist a way to make more money, which could, in turn, solve a giant chunk of their current labor issues. Two-hundred-thirty million dollars is not chump change.

Having logos on uniforms reminds some people of European soccer and others of beer-league softball.  But at the end of the day, those sponsored teams enjoy the support of their sponsors, be it in trade or cash, and they willingly share space on their players’ backs and/or chests to show that.

Remember: The NFL and ALL of it’s teams are businesses first and foremost. You find me one fan who would stop watching if jerseys had logos and I’ll find you the strangest fellow on the planet. This is a good thing. This is not the 800th billboard in a DMA; it’s coveted, highly-valued inventory that the league should strongly consider utilizing.

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