Before the emergence from Covid-19 over the course of this season, there were concerns being batted around the NHL and its teams regarding slumping revenue. Clearly, this was going to be a problem with empty arenas, parking decks, and zero concession sales, and the league began coping with this dip by getting more ads on the ice and adding ads to the teams’ helmets.
Fans raised an eyebrow at the helmet ads, because we’ve all seen European hockey leagues play. The players in Europe are skating billboards, and people have been concerned that the helmet ads are an open door that being a reality in the NHL.
The league more than likely understands that fans revere their teams jerseys and buy it for the crest on the front, not the sponsorship deals attached. Other leagues, such as the NBA, have opened up jerseys to sponsorship deals, and fans coped. Soccer fans for years have had team sponsors front and center on the jerseys that they purchase and wear. The NHL has some examples to work with of successfully integrating brand advertisement, but hockey fans are a different group - the initial reaction to the NHL’s announcement that they would be opening up jersey sponsorship for the 2022-2023 season was very similar to that of some of the more vocal baseball fans’ reaction to the Nike swoosh being on MLB jerseys.
If there was pushback like that over the logo of the manufacturer appearing on the front of a baseball jersey, how are hockey fans going to react to a corporate logo on the front of their team’s jersey?
More importantly, will fans be open to accepting the “ads supplement the league’s revenues during a tough time!” argument when the league’s post-Covid revenue is actually now at the same levels, if not a little higher, than it was before the pandemic. Thanks to expansion in Seattle and the league’s TV deals with Disney and TNT, the NHL should be raking in about $5 billion this season. That’s around the same revenue as the 2018-2019 season. Without Covid-19, this year’s revenues would’ve been significantly higher, but the rebound that they’ve experienced points to income recovery in the future which should take care of the billion or so dollars that the league’s revenue was off last season.
It’s time to find out if fans are open to the NHL covering their revenue basics. The Blues held a press conference today to announce their jersey sponsor. They’ve agreed to a five year deal with Stifel, who is already one of the team’s helmet sponsors.
The Blues’ five-year jersey sponsor agreement with @Stifel is an extension of a long-standing partnership between two St. Louis-made organizations committed to the growth and development of our community. https://t.co/AusNUfvbkA #stlblues— x - St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) April 28, 2022
Stifel is a St. Louis based wealth management firm with a very long-lasting relationship with the Blues. Their jersey patch looks as unobtrusive as their helmet sticker, but having a sponsor on the jersey, no matter how unsightly the patch, may not go over well with some fans - regardless of who the business is.