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Report: NHL Expects About Half of Teams to Remain Ad-Free This Season

As NHL teams continue to sell space on their uniforms to advertisers (the latest announcement came from the Jets, who on Friday became the ninth team to go ad-clad), the widespread assumption — including here at Uni Watch HQ — has been that all or almost all of the league’s 32 teams would go ad-clad this season. (The one exception we currently know of are the Oilers, who are reportedly not having a jersey ad, at least for now.)

But it turns out that the situation isn’t quite so dire, at least based on an article you might have missed last Friday afternoon from ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski. Its big takeaway: The league expects only about half of its 32 teams to have jersey ads this season.

Wyshynski’s article is based on an interview he did with Keith Wachtel, the NHL’s chief business officer and executive vice president of global partnerships, regarding the uni ad program. Here’s the operative passage:

Wachtel said the majority of NHL teams will not have a patch [advertiser] this season. … [He] estimates that about half of the NHL’s teams will have a jersey ad patch at some point this season.

Wachtel said there was no rush to get these ads done before the 2022-23 season. The NHL has advised teams that they can sell ad space during the season or even into the postseason. Or, in some cases, not at all “until they get the value” they’re looking for in a multiyear partnership. As one NHL team source said, “the market is flooded” when it comes to advertising at the moment.

“We did not expect it would be all the teams out of the gate because we want the value of the asset to be protected,” Wachtel said. “And some people just want to see what [the program] looks like. We’re actually happy that many of our clubs are taking a wait-and-see approach.”

The NHL does anticipate that the majority of its teams will have a jersey [advertiser] in the 2023-24 season.

Okay, so that first graf is a little confusing, because Wachtel first says the majority won’t have ads and then says about half will have ads. It sounds like he’s expecting about 14 or 15 of the league’s 32 teams to go ad-clad.

Am I excited about seeing over a dozen ad-clad NHL teams this season? Of course not. But am I happy to hear that about half the league will remain ad-free for 2022-23? Definitely!

The nine teams that have currently announced jersey advertisers are the Blue Jackets, Blues, Canadiens, Capitals, Coyotes, Golden Knights, Penguins, Wild, and the aforementioned Jets. If Wachtel’s projection is accurate, that means we should see only five or six more this season.

Other notable bits of info from Wyshynski’s article:

  • Although all of the ad patches we’ve seen so far have been located on the upper-right chest, teams can also opt for the upper-left chest, or on either shoulder.
  • Adverts for alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, or anything sexual are not allowed. Ditto for any advertiser who might compete with an existing league partner.
  • Gambling ads are allowed (indeed, the Caps and Golden Knights already have them), but only on home jerseys of teams located in states where sports gambling is legal. Gambling ads are also now permitted on home helmets, where they had been disallowed for the past two seasons.

The article concludes with a hilarious attempt at a face-saving quote from Wachtel: “We still have tasteful ice. We have tasteful boards. We’ve done this very tastefully too.” Hahahahahahahahaha.

Comments (15)

    Here’s hoping that the NBA patch program has been considered an advertising failure that has not yeilded strong ROI from its advertisers, and companies are leery about spending money on a spot with far lass visibility than the NBA.

    Has there been any study? Speaking as a single consumer, I have never once sought a company based on an ad patch I saw at a game, or focused my spending on whether or not my team (or rival) wears (or doesn’t wear) a certain brand’s ad. Similarly, stadium naming rights don’t influence my consumer choices. I can’t think I am the only one.
    Here’s hoping it is a total failure and waste of money before this metastasizes into something horrific.

    The only advertisement I’ve seen so far that I’ve been able to overlook without disdain is the Utah Jazz’ 5 For the Fight patch, since it’s promoting a charity, albeit a corporation’s charity. I can only hope that, if the Flyers decide to plunge off the deep end into the dark abyss, they take a page from the Jazz, and “sell” the space to the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation.

    But let’s be real, Tastykake’s going to pay better.

    I was thinking if they Flyers put on a patch, I’m hoping it would be a classified ad for a competent GM.

    My first choice for the Flyers is none.
    Tastykake would be reasonable.
    Wawa too. I could see PECO going beyond the PECO Power Play, even though for those of us in the eastern province of Flyers Nation (South Jersey), we don’t have electric choice and I couldn’t use PECO if I tried.
    A new GM would be a huge find, and if it takes a patch, I am here for it.

    While generally this seems like good news, I am wary of this part:

    “The NHL has advised teams that they can sell ad space during the season or even into the postseason.”

    So let’s say a team like the Islanders (unlikely I know, but hope springs eternal and etc.) makes an unexpected run to the Cup Finals, there’s a chance they’ll be d-free all year only to debut a new patch in Game 1? Blech.

    Was just about to say this. And also, never say never on the Isles. Yes, I know our history of late (and not-so-late), but as someone who saw them win four cups while I was in High School, the Drive For Five still exists!

    I would think once a team made the playoffs, a one-off advertiser would jump on board for the playoffs, and could possibly base their fee on how far the team goes.

    Secondly, I think the fans should really hold the advertisers to a high standard, lets say the Islanders finished in last place, I would be sure to let the advertiser know I am not buying services or goods from a company that supports a last place team. Likewise teams I don’t like would automatically be left out of any spending on do on those types of services. It should really be a gamble for the advertisers.

    “Gambling ads are allowed…but only on home jerseys of teams located in states where sports gambling is legal.”

    Does this mean a team might have a home-only ad patch? Or potentially different home/road advertisers? And if they end up on the road against a team wearing white, does that mean the regular home sweater would not be an option (unless the patches were covered or removed)? That sounds like an equipment manager’s nightmare.

    Does this mean a team might have a home-only ad patch? Or potentially different home/road advertisers?

    Yes. Some teams have already had different home/road advertisers for their helmets.

    Agree that it sounds like a potential hassle for the eq staff. Just another reason to hate uni ads.

    Does the NHL allow on ice or board ads for alcohol? I am fairly certain they do. So drawing the line at having Labatt or Molson on a jersey? And no alcohol ads on uniforms, but gambling isn’t a problem? Plenty of lives have been ruined by gambling addictions, but I guess the sports betting partnerships trump any moral concerns there?

    Quoting from Wyshynski’s article: “Not all ads are made the same. The league sees a difference between what can run as a commercial, what gets space on the dasher boards or what gets featured on the players’ jerseys. Hence, the NHL is taking a more conservative approach to the latter category.”

    I defintely will never patronage any sponsors of jetsey ads. I will boycott! And i wont be the only one :)

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