Only a few years ago, it seemed blasphemous that the NFL would pull a NASCAR and plaster tiny little ads all over their sacred team jerseys. Now, according to a recent study by analysts at Horizon Media, there is financial windfall of over $230 million available if NFL teams let sponsors purchase space on that valuable acreage.
That kind of money must be very enticing to the NFL, especially since the NFL Player's Association will probably be demanding a larger cut of league revenues when they meet over a new labor pact this spring.
"Within a three-to-five year period, I would be very surprised if one of the leagues wasn't sampling [logos on jerseys] on a large-scale effort," said Michael A. Neuman, according to the New York Post.
Sewing little corporate patches on cute futbol jerseys is one thing but cluttering up a traditional NFL uniform is another. The outcry from NFL fans would be heard from the swamps of the Meadowlands to coffee kiosks of Qwest Field.
According to the New York Post, an NFL spokesperson said, "We are often approached by companies that want to put their logo on NFL jerseys--the most valuable real estate in sports, but we have no plans to do so."
"Valuable" is a word the NFL likes. If there is money to be made and the league has a chance to reap the benefits, how long off could it be before we see Viagra plastered on player's helmets? It's already started.
Over the last three years, many NFL franchises have subtlety put corporate logos on practice uniforms during the pre-season.
The New York Giants sported Timex ads last summer and Gillette, Sanyo and even the University of Phoenix popped up on other team uniforms.
One problem in having players look like mini stock cars on the playing field is the fact that network broadcasters will need to find a way to appease sponsors paying for expensive 30-second blocks of commercial air time while a competitor with his logo on the uniform gets free air time--and more of it. They will only be able to sit and watch the shot clock run down while Tom Brady lines up with a rival logo emblazoned across his chest--60 times a game.
Paid advertisers will have to take into account the fans who grab a beer while the paid commercials run, that you can't TiVo game action and you can block paid advertising. Uniform ads could become very ubiquitous.
Logo-dotted uniforms seem inevitable, so lie back and think of the positives and the possibilities.
A UPS patch on a Cleveland Browns jersey with their slogan "What can Brown do for you?" on Peyton Hillis' sleeve. Nothing, most fans would think. Probably not a good example.
But you could throw a Dr. Scholl's ad on Rex Ryan's sweater vest or a Go Daddy patch above Antonio Cromartie's number.
What would Peyton Manning's jersey look like? Is there a product that wouldn't be on his uniform? He'll change from #18 to # 1 to fit more ads.
Some product placement would be natural fits. The Detroit Lions with a Ford Motors patch, the Miami Dolphins with a SeaWorld emblem or the New England Patriots promoting, what else, Gillette razors. Some placement may be a little stickier.
Think Alpo would put their logo on Michael Vick's jersey? Maybe PETA would jump at the chance?
It's probably only a short time before fans see corporate advertising on NFL uniforms. Probably about the same time most games can only be seen on the NFL Network.
The NFL talks about integrity of the game but already sells naming rights to stadiums, fifty-yard lines and every score update on network television. It uses the excuse of nostalgia for using throw-back uniforms in regular-season games but everyone knows it's only to sell more NFL gear.
The uproar from fans looking at 300-pound sandwich-boards would, at first, be significant. But, like every other change--PSL's, paying for Thursday night games and Rex Ryan's weight loss--fans will accept it and move on. They got over that annoying protecting the quarterback rule, didn't they?
Imagine one day, a Carolina Owens-Corning Pink Panthers vs. the New York JetBlues in the Beef O'Brady Super Bowl.
$230 million is going to look pretty inviting to the NFL after these labor talks.