The Montreal Canadiens jersey has long been considered the sacred garment of hockey fans. This is the symbol of the NHL’s most legendary franchise. He even inspired a children’s book called The Hockey Sweater.

But when the Canadiens unveiled new team captain Nick Suzuki last week, fansblue white and red“release team”Crap!” when they noticed new addition to the jersey: RBC Bank advertising patch on the right shoulder.

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For many fans, this was the moment reality struck: NHL jersey advertising is here, and the hockey jersey will never be the same again.

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Immediately, fans started speculating about how long it would take to add the second ad, and then more. Images of NASCAR jumpers and European hockey jerseys that look like billboards on skates have been posted on social media to show concern.

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“I can’t even tell you what I heard about [those concerns] until this week,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told Sportzshala, adding that “the NHL has not discussed or considered expanding the patch program.”

The NHL has been sliding into T-shirt advertising for more than a decade. Advertising on practice jerseys was first allowed in 2010. Meanwhile, the AHL, ECHL, NWHL, and European professional leagues have made shirt sponsorship commonplace.

The NHL and NHLPA have placed ads on jerseys from the 2016 World Hockey Championship, leading to speculation that the new Adidas official kit will open ads on NHL team jerseys.

Although that door was ajar, Commissioner Gary Bettman said at the time that the NHL would “definitely not be the first” of the big four North American sports to allow advertising on regular season or playoff jerseys.

“You would have to drag me around to kick and scream,” he said before admitting, “we know what our exposure is worth. Can anyone go through this math and come up with a number? The answer is yes.”

It was the NBA that helped fill the equation. In 2017, the NBA announced that it would allow 2.5″ by 2.5″ promotional patches on its jerseys for the 2017-18 season. The program was a success, generating over $150 million in additional revenue and attracting new advertisers to the association.

In August 2021, the NHL Board of Governors approved jersey advertising starting with the 2022–23 regular season.

One advertising patch. Nothing else. At the moment.

Keith Wachtel, the NHL’s chief commercial officer and executive vice president of global partnerships, said that if you asked Bettman, he’d say there’s nothing more than one ad.

“But we also had a position, like any league, to say that we were not going to advertise on our jersey,” Wachtel said. “So you never want to say never, but that’s not in the foreseeable future.”

We spoke with Wachtel and others to seek further clarification on other concerns raised by fans regarding the jersey advertising program to learn more about its economy and anticipate what might happen in the future.

Where will the T-shirts be advertised?

Advertising on NHL jerseys will be slightly larger than NBA jerseys. They will fit on a 3″ x 3.5″ sweater. Instead of a square patch, they will use whatever logo the sponsor requests, as long as it fits.

The NHL has allocated four jersey advertising spots: left and right shoulder, and left and right chest.

“In the current program, this is one patch in only one area,” Wachtel said.

It wasn’t the NHL pushing for a single jersey sponsor limit, but rather the feedback received from the teams that set the standard. Wachtel referred to the law of diminishing returns for teams.

“The more logos you put there, the less value there will be. Therefore, the clubs wanted to use one advertisement. This is what we will have for the foreseeable future. [ads]. There is one brand on the sweater,” he said.

The NHL has stated that the front of a jersey is not necessarily more valuable real estate than advertising on the shoulders.

“The analysis will show that the shoulder, in some respect, depending on the camera angle, will receive more exposure than the front,” Wachtel said. “With the NBA, it’s obvious where the ads should go. I think marketers are waiting to see what will have the biggest impact. [in the NHL].”


Can fans buy NHL jerseys without ads?

Absolutely. Authentic Adidas jerseys sold online will not have sponsor patches. The NHL’s jersey advertising policy states that teams must only use a sponsored patch in arena stores if fans request it, otherwise they will have the option to purchase the original jersey without the patch.

Wachtel said that this setting may change in the future. For now, this is the only way fans can get the patch.

According to Fanatics, Breakaway fans’ jerseys will also be free of sponsor patches for the 2022-23 season. Essentially, any jersey purchased from an NHL online store will not have a patch.


What ad not are t-shirts allowed?

Not all ads are made the same. The league sees a difference between what can be an advertisement, what takes up space on the bulletin boards, and what is depicted on the players’ jerseys. Consequently, according to Wachtel, the NHL is taking a more “conservative approach” to the latter category.

The NHL bans any T-shirt advertising that promotes alcohol, liquor and beer, tobacco and marijuana, or anything of a sexual nature. The league also does not allow consumer product licensing advertising that may conflict with a partner such as Fanatics.

One of the toughest challenges has been related to the cryptocurrency that the league is allowing to be used in other forms of advertising. Wachtel pointed out that the volatility in this market does not sit well with a multi-year commitment to T-shirt advertising, even when the Los Angeles Kings play in an arena named after a crypto business, for example.

“As a league, we allow cryptocurrencies on signage. But we have to be careful given the long-term nature of these deals, which range from three to five years,” Wachtel said.

One category is allowed by the NHL: sports betting advertising, but with some specific restrictions.

The NHL has introduced advertising on its helmets for the 2020/21 season. During the first two years of this program, bookmaker advertising was banned. But as of this season, that rule has been abolished for helmets and jerseys.

Given that sports betting is legal in some states and not in others, betting company ads can only appear on the home jerseys and helmets of teams located in states where it is allowed.


Has there been any guidance from the league on how to make ads aesthetically similar to the jerseys they wear?

According to Wachtel, the NHL endorses all T-shirt advertising not just for content, but also for “creativity”. He works with Adidas, teams and brands to design ads to make them look as aesthetically pleasing as possible. Wachtel cites Caesars Sportsbook with the Washington Capitals and Circa Sports with the Vegas Golden Knights as two of the best examples of this mix-up.

“We want to strike a balance between the importance, heritage and history of our sweaters, but with this newfound reality and the opportunities we have,” Wachtel said. “I think we’ve done that with the deals that we’ve announced.”


Will every team have jersey advertisements?

As of mid-September, the Arizona Coyotes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild, Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues, Golden Knights and Capitals announce jersey partnership.

But Wachtel said most NHL teams won’t have a patch sponsor this season. This is exactly what the NBA faced when they started selling uniform ads. Wachtel estimates that about half of NHL teams will have promotional jersey patches at some point this season.

Wachtel said he was in no rush to make this ad until the 2022-23 season. The NHL has told teams that they can sell ad space during the season or even the postseason. Or, in some cases, there is no “until they get value” at all, which they are looking for in a multi-year partnership. As one NHL source said, “The market is crowded” when it comes to advertising.

“We didn’t expect all teams to go 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] it seems. We are actually glad that many of our clubs have taken a wait-and-see attitude.”

The NHL expects most of its teams to have a jersey advertising partner for the 2023-24 season.


How much money can a jersey ad make?

All income generated from advertising on jerseys goes to hockey-related income, which is equally divided between teams and players in accordance with the collective agreement.

The amount of income depends on the club. It depends on the market, the success of the team and other factors. It may also depend on where the advertisement is placed on the jersey.

“We have clubs that have received really great deals on all their jerseys. And then there are those where the market decided it would pay more for each game, but didn’t want to buy the entire ad space. Wachtel explained. “This allows you to increase the demand for the second half, because it is cheaper than the whole.”

Wachtel said the NHL was “well ahead” of its expectations for jersey advertising sales and sees…