If you think of the NFL and its teams as a greedy business, you would have a good point. Teams increase ticket prices even after losing seasons. They put city councils in a vice for taxpayers’ money to renovate existing stadiums or build entirely new ones. The league pays its commissioner more than $ 30 million a year while fighting tooth and nail to avoid paying retired players. He wants to move the combine harvester from perfectly good and quite practical Indianapolis to Los Angeles for more attention and therefore more money.
But there is one resource the NFL hasn’t tapped into. As an extremely conservative measure, jersey advertising patches could net teams and players in the league $ 200 million a year in additional revenue. And the NFL would hardly be a pioneer in this area.
The NBA implemented a jersey patch program in 2017 that allowed teams to negotiate individual deals with their own sponsors. The league has been so successful with this program, originally a three-year pilot, that it was extended indefinitely at the last owners meeting, said Amy Brooks, president of team and team marketing. NBA business operations and innovation director. Ads mainly are MLS, international soccer and WNBA jerseys. Motorsports turn cars and drivers into high-speed commercials, and golfers also make commercials on foot. MLB has dipped its foot in the water with advertisements on sleeves and helmets in its games in Japan and Mexico since the early 2000s.
Ten years ago, the NFL began adding sponsorship badges to training jerseys. At the time, some thought the game-jersey patch was imminent. But a decade later, it doesn’t look like America’s most profitable league in sport is any closer to quilting.
“Never say never, but there are currently no plans to pursue or explore,” a league spokesperson told the MMQB earlier this week.
There are a myriad of unanswered questions and logistics to sort through, but one team leader believes that “any resistance to this today would be much less than it was 15 or 20 years ago.”
A seemingly natural time for the NFL to introduce a jersey patch program would be in the next round of collective bargaining. The current ABCs end after the 2020 season and the talks are expected to be controversial.
“It’s about trying to find new sources of income, so that when you enter into a new contract, you can distribute new income and everyone is happy,” said Dr Bill Sutton, director of University of South Florida sports and entertainment program. “The owners and the players are happy.
“Now that the NBA threw the rock in the water and made it ripple, now the other leagues are looking at it, saying look at what the NBA did and it didn’t seem to cause any damage or mutual harm. . Maybe we should get our feet wet.
In March, when the Oklahoma City Thunder teamed up with Love’s Travel Shops, all 30 NBA teams now have a sponsor patch. Here are some of the NBA settings: Patches should not exceed 2.5 x 2.5 inches. Alcohol, tobacco, gambling, political ads, and competitors to Nike (which owns the rights to the jersey) are banned, and teams are negotiating their own deals, which are said to be between $ 5 million and $ 20 million a year. year.
“Two-thirds of those 30 partners are global brands, and two-thirds of those partners were also brand new to their spending with the NBA,” Brooks said. “In addition, the reasons why these companies join our teams are very diverse. We have well-established iconic brands looking to rejuvenate and connect with a more diverse audience. We have upstart brands looking to build their image. We have global brands looking to connect with the NBA. It was really exciting because there are different ways to create value.
Some of these household names include General Electric, Harley-Davidson, and Disney. Lesser-known include Rakuten, a Japanese electronics company whose deal with Warriors means a lot of airtime for their logo on game shows nationwide. The Clippers even have a deal with the Bumble dating app.
So where would that potential patch on an NFL jersey go? In 2014, the NBA moved its logo from the upper left of the chest to the back of the neck of the jersey. The NBA had carried out extensive testing and found that the area of the left chest, rather than under the front jersey number or on the neck, was tested most prominently. In essence, it was the most valuable place in real estate the league was willing to give up.
The NFL would apparently have two options. The most obvious would be left or right across the chest, just like on training shirts. Other patches should be considered, such as how the Sponsored patch interacts with a Captain’s patch, Walter Payton Man of the Year patch, or a commemorative patch that a team may have during a certain anniversary season.
The other option would be on either round. But that’s also where the Nike Swoosh exists, and some teams have their logo on their sleeve as well. It’s important real estate that wouldn’t be given up easily, and that’s before you consider that some players (hello, Michael Bennett) like to roll up their sleeves in their pads.
But the jersey is one of the last places fans aren’t sold. Sure, we’d expect the Swoosh, but other than that, the NFL jersey is a clean palette. The uniform connects the team to the city, and maybe it’s more than income.
In the meantime, is there already oversaturation in the NFL? The sideline already has Wilson soccer balls, Gatorade towels and New Era caps. And sometimes when the referee examines a part on a Microsoft tablet while wearing a Bose headset, a local ad plays on a split screen.
How Much Can Fans Take? This is a question the NBA had to weigh.
“It’s definitely something we’ve reported,” said Brooks, “but our assumption was that jersey sponsorship is already so prevalent around the world in football as well as in our own leagues – the G League and the WNBA – that we didn’t think that would be a problem with our fans. And in fact, it turned out not. And the comments from our retailers are that the fans actually want the shirts with the patch and the shirts that the players wore. “
One concern that two NFL executives admitted was the possibility of a sponsor dispute when a visiting team comes to town. The NFL would likely issue bans on the types of patch sponsors allowed, just like the NBA. But what happens when an automaker-sponsored team walks into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans? Or when a team patched by a communications provider visits AT&T Stadium in Dallas?
Or even on a more athletic level: what if a Coca-Cola sponsored team went to a stadium that Pepsi had paid untold amounts of money in order to be the official soda supplier to the team and the building?
“We haven’t had any major issues there, but it could happen,” said Brooks, speaking on behalf of the NBA only. “But we think it’s justifiable and the ecosystem has worked for us.”
Teams, players and the different brands around them are already acutely aware of these conflicts. Look no further than Patrick Mahomes writing adidas on a piece of duct tape over the Under Armor logo on a Texas Tech t-shirt during the Final Four.
Finally, of course, there is the money. First, the NBA has kept its patch sponsorship contracts confidential. Sutton, who served as the NBA’s vice president of team marketing and business operations from 2000 to 2006, finds it hard to believe that sponsors are paying $ 20 million a year for the little patch, saying some of these deals have been associated with opportunities other than just the patch. It is therefore difficult to determine exactly how much the patch, and the patch alone, is really worth.
Either way, teams from large markets and iconic brands like the Cowboys and Patriots will order more than teams from small markets with little prime time exposure like, say, the Jaguars. Sutton speculates that the league sets a floor for its teams of at least $ 5 million a year for the patch. “I would say that whatever the minimum, the Cowboys could get 5X.”
If all 32 teams have a sponsorship patch and the average patch is $ 7 million, that adds up to $ 224 million in additional revenue each year for the NFL. This money would then theoretically be shared between the owners and the players. Under the current collective agreement, players receive between 47 and 48.5% of all income. So it would be over $ 100 million a year that could go to the salary cap pool, former player pension plans, or wherever the union sees fit.
It seems like the kind of money that is easy to not pass up. Still, the NFL left him on the table for years with no immediate plans to cash in anytime soon. The problems and the conflicts are there, but the money and the global reach are there too.
“It’s definitely complex when it comes to the different factors you have to think about,” said Brooks, when asked what advice she would give to a league looking to launch a patch program. “At the end of the day, if you’re trying to grow your brand globally, it’s great to have partners who want to do it on your side. It’s such an endemic asset to the game and to the players that it has a lot of value. “
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