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Hockey's New Look

NHL jerseys sport ads for the first time ever

By Rob Coolican, Kelsey Philpott & Lorne Cooperberg, members of GMR's Hockey Subject Matter Expert team

Hockey fans are used to watching elite players put a team on their shoulders and carry it to a win. Now, fans will need to get used to those shoulders carrying a brand logo.

Jersey advertising is in play for the first time at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey...and everyone is going to be just fine!

North American leagues and teams have long been sensitive to the impact of jersey advertisements on their number one stakeholder—the fan. The jersey represents the ultimate vehicle to connect the fan with their favorite team and players. It has been sacred ground since the NHL began nearly 100 years ago.

While some hockey fans will complain, the precedent has already been set across other sports (led by European football), and the reality is that most fans will quickly adjust. The risk of jersey advertising negatively impacting a fan’s emotional connection or experience with the sport is minimal and the upside is enormous between the revenue generated for the league and teams alongside the potential for driving awareness, affinity and other strategic imperatives for brands.

Let’s take a look at what “jersey advertising” means for the NHL, teams and sponsors at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

Jersey advertising is in play for the first time at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey...and everyone is going to be just fine.


  • Brand logos will be integrated on the shoulder, the most highly visible portion of the jersey.
  • The NHL controls the jersey inventory for all eight teams participating in the World Cup and has the ability to sell all team jerseys to a single brand or do multiple brand deals across home and away jerseys. Pending market demand, they could technically even sell on a game-by-game basis.


  • Revenue: Expect the full package of jersey rights (all eight teams) to land a mid-seven figure return for the NHL.
  • Research: The NHL is able to experiment with fan tolerance, market pricing and asset mixes ahead of future sponsorship opportunities at the league and team level.
  • Design: The NHL can work with the brand and jersey manufacturer to incorporate the brand according to their guidelines and conservative logo placement and sizing ensures a consistent look and feel for each jersey.
  • Control: Full NHL control of the jersey rights provides a level playing field across markets for revenue share vs individual countries selling their own and certain markets (like Canada) likely garnering more interest and revenues than others (like the Czech Republic).


  • Exposure: Prominent logo placement has tremendous value across media, in-stadium and at-retail (however, the World Cup jerseys at retail will not include brand logos due to timelines).
  • Access: Right to the on-ice product provides an opportunity for brands (especially non-endemics) to more authentically associate with the game and the fervent patriotism of its fans.
  • Risk: Any sponsor will need to carefully address a conservative and protective hockey fan to assuage concerns that jersey ads represent over-commercialization of their 100 year-old sport.
  • Investment: A significant cash outlay as the NHL won’t sell prominent placement for less than seven figures.

The key to minimizing fan backlash and maximizing benefit to the league, teams and sponsors is to think of these agreements as the closest thing to a major league or team entitlement in North America, which means the discussion must extend well beyond putting a logo on a jersey.

Does jersey advertising make sense for your brand?

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