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This is Not the Hockey Jersey Advertising You Are Looking For

Hockey advert hed

By Morris Levin

Corporate advertising on game jerseys is an active discussion on this site. Paul and others explored rationales against advertising in April 2012. Paul covered the July 2012 announcement of the NBA’s intention to begin jersey advertising.

Advocating for NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB game uniforms to remain advertising free, Paul wrote on Page 2 on, “the fan still roots for that uniform, no matter who’s wearing it. That’s a unique bond — one that shouldn’t be cheapened or sullied by the presence of an ad patch for a credit card.” Teams are civic institutions as much as they are private enterprise.

Caleb Borchers explained on this site his theory that Europeans accept game jersey advertising because European uniforms historically had minimal decoration. “American fans don’t like uni ads largely because there is no space for them! International teams had more visual space for an ad than we did, so it was easier to accept them. ” That is, no traditional uniform elements were displaced.

Owners want uniform advertising because more money is better than less money. Uni-Watch has generally staked out positions opposed to jersey ads with healthy debate in the comments.

I was curious to hear the perspective of a player so I turned to Craig Ferguson who I first came to know in a graduate school sports business class. Craig is both mindful of the appeal presented by new revenue sources to owners and players, and also a fan of the game who appreciates and respects its history.

Craig played professionally from 1992 to 2006 in the ECHL, AHL, IHL, NHL, Swiss-A, and Deutsche Eishockey Liga. He wore a Canadiens sweater ”“ one of the most iconic of North American jerseys. He also skated in Europe with Fribourg-Gottéron in Switzerland and Ingolstadt in Germany. He wore his fair share of jersey advertising.

I am specifically interested in the different sports cultures and construction of team allegiance between the United States and Europe. Last year on this site, I wrote about the 1973 introduction of jersey advertising in European football and posited the difference to be existential. American fans may always lose their team to relocation through the franchise system and absence of relegation. The league bestoweth and the league taketh.

European teams and their fan bases commit to long-term relationships. This engenders greater community identity and investment. This ownership, coupled with relegation, removes pressure from the uniform to define the team identity. Teams just about never move (unless you are FC Wimbledon).

Craig found European fans passionate about hockey, and the team active in their community. Professional teams in Europe develop the minor league players in the area. In Fribourg, the team ran the minor hockey program with assistance from the professional players who developed the young players to one-day play at the professional level in Fribourg. Players on his teams in both Fribourg and Inglostadt made themselves very accessible to fans through team sponsored social opportunities, and fans were respectful in kind.

There is no entry player draft? Suppose one of the top 22-year old players in Major League Baseball was from Vineland, New Jersey. There is a good chance he would be playing in Philadelphia today rather than Anaheim.

Craig comes by his appreciation for classic uniforms honestly. He grew up following the Canadiens, with weekend trips to Montreal with his dad to for games at the Forum. The Canadiens drafted Craig and he spent the first three years of his professional career with the organization.

While Montreal is known by fans to be steeped in tradition, Craig found an organization that actively cultivated reverence for this legacy in its players ”“ those in Montreal as well as those at its minor league affiliates. The card at the bottom right is Canadiens-affiliate Craig in Fredericton.

Canadiens players were taught on the first day of training camp that the jersey, both practice and game, were to be handled in a respectful manner. This meant that players hung up their jersey at the end of games or practices. It was never to be discarded on the floor of the dressing room at any time.

Craig’s professional took him to teams in Switzerland and Germany.

He understood there are differences in European hockey cluture. Advertising on his jersey was one difference that came to be part of the background, and much easier to which to adapting than the larger ice surface. Most critically, player salaries in Europe were largely dependent on sponsorship revenue, incentivizing ownership and player support for the practice.

Craig shared images from his years with ERC Inglostadt. The Panthers wear navy and light blue. This is Craig wearing the club jersey with the skyline of the town of Inglostadt imprinted with team sponsors. The assistant captain A and manufacturer swoosh are nearly lost in the front clutter. The Christmas version had Santa Clause in his sleigh above the same skyline.

The playoffs brought a change from blue to a black and red color scheme, inconsistent with the jerseys worn during the regular season. Note the 2005 playoff year on the sleeve.

This is the 2004 playoff uniform in gray with year on the front. After each home game, the team would line up, music would play, the players would dance, salute the home crowd and thank them for their support.

As a player in general, and foreign player in Europe, Craig was struck by the civic community support for the club and found the sponsors to be part of this community. Sponsors did not offer perks or cash bonuses, but as organizations, the sponsors invested themselves in the players and the player families being made to feel integrated into the community.

There are fewer longer team histories in North American than Europe, driven by multiple factors, chief among which I identify to be the potential for the existential crisis in franchise relocation. The absence of this and other reminders of the temporarily of this relationship, engenders a deeper fan engagement able to transcend the use of the jersey as commercial display space.


Morris Levin began work at Mitchell & Ness Nostalgia Co. in 1993. He left the company for business school in 2006 and is now the proprietor of Elysian Fields Baseball, LLC, a small business consulting practice in Philadelphia. He recognizes that some folks love corporations!


And now a few words from Paul…

Just a reminder that the second annual Uni Watch Power Rankings will roll out on Monday over on ESPN (we’ll have a link here on the blog, natch). Remember, there’s a format change this time around: Last year we ranked the 122 Big Four uniform sets by going worst to first over the course of five days. This time we’re ranking each league’s uniforms one day at a time — MLB on Monday, NBA on Tuesday, NFL on Wednesday, NHL on Thursday (yes, that’s a different sequence that I originally announced two weeks ago) — and then presenting the intermixed 122-team chart on Friday. It should spur lots of fun discussion.

I’ll also have big ESPN columns in the two weeks after the Power Rankings:

• My annual college football season preview will run on ESPN on Aug. 27 and 28. (It’s going to be pretty damn long, so my editors have decided to split it up into two pieces.)

• My annual NFL season preview will run on Sept. 3 — the day after Labor Day.

That’s it for now. My continued thanks to Phil and his contributors for giving me a break from the blog and giving me the time and space to concentrate on these big projects.



Don’t Forget The Motor City…

Phil here.

As hinted at yesterday, the Detroit Pistons have introduced a new alternate uniform, which riffs on the Portland Trailblazers alternate, featuring “Motor City” as a wordmark.

“We are pleased to unveil our new Motor City uniforms and display our pride in the metro Detroit community,” Pistons CEO Dennis Mannion said in a statement. “When you say Motor City ”“ no matter where you are in the world ”“ everyone knows you are talking about Detroit. We are proud to represent Detroit and hope these uniforms will serve as a source of pride for our fans and this region.”


They’re expected to wear this set 10 times during the 2013-14 season, and will debut them on Sunday, November third, against the Celtics in Detorit. According to reports, the Pistons will then wear the jerseys on eight other Sunday games plus a Friday, November 29th home game against the Lakers.



It’s not terrible, but it’s just kind of “there” in my opinion. Also, since it’s a dark blue (navy), it can probably be worn on the road as well as at home, so it’s utilitarian. But lord knows, the NBA needs another navy uniform, right? Finally, there’s this from the Pistons’ press release:

The navy blue and red uniforms feature “Motor City” across the front and mark the club’s first alternative look since the 2005-06 NBA season. The uniforms are the first of their kind, designed to celebrate the pride and character of metro Detroit while paying homage to the region’s automotive roots.

The Pistons worked in consultation with adidas and the NBA in development of the uniforms. Lettering and numbering style on the jersey is consistent with the team’s current home and away uniforms. To contrast the navy blue and red accents, lettering and numbers on the jerseys and shorts are white with hair-line red and blue trim. The club’s secondary logo appears on the shorts ”“ similar to the primary home and away uniforms.

I have no problem with them wanting a third uniform (and the $$$ it will bring in), but I’ve never been keen on teams using City nicknames, airport abbreviations or shortened names on jerseys, but it is what it is. And certainly “Motor City” is unquestionably tied to Detroit.

Your thoughts?


College Football Uniform News & Notes

NCAAFB Uniform News & Updates

This will be a semi-recurring column on Uni Watch and will appear whenever there is any news or updates on the College Football uniform front.

If you have ANY new NCAAFB news, follow and tweet me at @PhilHecken (and you’ll get your tweet in lights on here). You can also e-mail me (Phil (dot) Hecken (at) Gmail (dot) com) or send/cc: Paul to the following address: NewCollegeUni (at) Gmail (dot) com. OK? OK! (for any image, click to enlarge):

. . .

Marist College Red Foxes (home uniforms):

Marist Football 2013

“Here’s something new from our football team. These are our new home jerseys for the 2013 season To compare, these are the home jerseys from the 2012 season. Our road jersey remains the same.” (Thanks to Geoffrey J. Magliocchetti)

. . .

Notre Dame Fightin’ Irish (blue jersey):


Not a huge “reveal” here, but the blue jerseys will have the adidas trademark treadmarks and the words “Fightin’ Irish” will be on the inside of the collars.

. . .

University of Tennessee Volunteers:

Though I had thought we’d seen the uniforms already (certainly we’ve seen pictures), the official unveiling is today. So UT put out a video to tease the reveal. We haven’t seen the white jersey (as far as I know) and I’m hearing there may be a third jersey/uniform, so at least we will see something we haven’t yet seen. (h/t to Chad Fields ”@CfieldsVFL)

. . .

Eastern Washington Eagles:

EWU Eagles 2013 Unis

The school with that awful red turf has gotten some new red uniforms to go with it (they were red before, but now they’re still red). According to this article, the unis are “red hot.” They’re also the new techno-fit adidas, so it’s safe to assume they’ll have the trademark treadmarks.

. . .

That’s it for the college uni news for today. Keep the tips coming folks!


ticker 2

Uni Watch News Ticker: Jim Harbaugh is still wearing Reebok, notes Brinkesee sleeve in video. … Couple of beauts here: Reader Brandon Hall wanted to submit a couple of prints he did some years back. Explains Brandon, “I’m a graphic designer and a big Buffalo Bills fan, so when the AFL and the Bills celebrated their 50th Anniversary I was inspired to make these for myself. I’m finally getting them up on the web and thought I would share with you and your readers in case anyone was interested checking them out.” … Here’s a link to an article where reader Matt Williams’ local CHL hockey team, the Arizona Sundogs, will have alternate jerseys commemorating the 19 Prescott firefighters lost. As a side note, Sundogs play in the arena where the memorial service was held. … There is going to be a Manny Machado Garden Gnome Giveaway (thanks to Andrew Hoenig). Read more here and here. Says Andrew, “The Bowie Baysox are an Orioles AA club. And, for the record, that is pronounced ‘BOO-ee’.” … Interesting article forwarded by George Chilvers notes that following a sponsorship deal with bookmakers Paddy Power, the Farnborough squad and their coaching staff have legally changed their names to that of a legendary footballer in their respective positions. … The MMQB post notes Merton Hanks is the NFL’s point person for the mandate requiring players to wear knee and thigh pads in 2013 (thanks to Tommy Turner). … “Saw this yesterday from Mike Luckovich of the Atlanta Constitution Journal,” says Brian Mazmanian. “Then wondered if he’d ever taken this stance with his hometown Braves, and came across this less than sensitive take. BTW, not sure why she’s picking her nose.” … Janssen McCormick wrote a semi-lengthy review of the Southampton Saints’ first season with Adidas after several years with Umbro as their supplier, and “like most Adidas kits the new ones are boring template jobs. From 1999-2008 Southampton were an anomaly in modern football as they produced their own kits under the Saints Sportswear label, that’s how small market Saints were at the time. However it’s a huge disappointment that the Adidas kit continues the switch to solid red that began with last year’s kit, Southampton have worn red and white stripes since 1896 (1985-87 being an exception) and those stripes have been paired with black shorts since 1950.” … As you are probably aware, last Yahoo! announced it would have a new logo, and now designers are imagining Yahoo!’s new logo for them (thanks, Brinke). … Question time: “How many swooshes are visible on Allen Robinson in this photo?” asks David Long. … Interesting article from Forbes, “Questions Concerning Copyright Of Athlete Tattoos Has Companies Scrambling” (thanks to Tom Turner). … Good spot from Matt Ryburn who saw this Brooklyn jersey on the SNY broadcast of Tuesday night’s Mets vs Dodgers game. He notes the Dodgers have a display showing items from the Brooklyn period. Interesting jersey with the “O” being split for the placket. … Good find from TommyTheCPA of this article in which the NFL thinks some face masks encourage players to lead with their heads. … Nice minimalist NHL logos (good find, Brinke). I’m pretty sure we’ve seen those before, but it never hurts to see them again. … The Suns will be unveiling their new duds later today, so here is a slide-show of Suns concept jersey’s from when they re-designed in the early 90’s (from Matthew Gunderson). … A few today from Sully (@pal3327): Here’s the new new baselayer for Texas A&M (looks like the ends of the sleeves are sublimated); This is what the AHL Bruins will be wearing at the Dunk this year; here is the 2013 Mingo Central Miners (High School) Football Helmet;, and, here are matte black lids (with an unusual stripe) for Dunedin HS in Florida. … Real nice game day program cover for Baylor vs. Oregon State, on a calendar in Alex Allen (@aallen65)’s boss’s office. … Jamison Nash came across this great Bleed Cubbie Blue article about giveaway hats from Opening Night at Wrigley Field. … Check out this gorgeous 50th Anniversary Logo patch for the NY Yanks (h/t Todd Radom).


Phew! That’s going to do it for today — if you were wondering, the reason Morris Levin has the lede (instead of the usual Friday), it’s because the Suns are going to be unveiling their new duds this evening, so tomorrow’s main article will more than likely be a recap of those uniforms.

Big thanks to Morris and all the contributors, and good to hear from Paul — looking forward to next week’s ESPN uni rankings, as I’m sure you guys are as well.

Everyone have a great Thursday, and I’ll be back tomorrow with much, much more.

Follow me on Twitter @PhilHecken


.. … ..

“The NFL banning the custom facemasks is just stupid. I mean, sure some of those masks look a bit, well, silly, but they also look really hard to actually grab onto — resulting in less facemasking penalties. Wouldn’t that be a GOOD thing, NFL?”
–THE Jeff Provo

Comments (126)

    It was FC Wimbledon that moved to Milton Keynes, and AFC Wimbledon that started up afterward.

    Maybe if the Pistons were anywhere near Detroit. According to Google Maps, the Palace of AUBURN HILLS is 32.7 miles from Detroit. Are there any other teams located so far from their city?

    According to Google Maps, Angels Stadium is 29.2 miles from LA. I’m Still Calling It Cowboys Stadium is 18.4 miles from Dallas. Ralph Wilson Stadium is 14.1 miles from Buffalo.

    Gillette Stadium is 27.8 miles from Boston, but 0.0 miles from New England.

    Bonus for MLS fans: FC Dallas Stadium is 27.7 miles from Dallas, Pizza Hut Park is 14.3 miles from Chicago, Rio Tinto Stadium is 14.5 miles from SLC and PPL Park is 18.0 miles from Philadelphia. Red Bull Arena is 9.6 miles from New York, but feels a light year away.

    LA City or LA County? La Mirada is LA County, and that’s like 12 miles.

    I ask because if you use “Los Angeles” on Google maps, it takes you downtown, making Inglewood, home of the Great Western Forum, 14.6 miles away.

    For the sake of simplicity, I used whatever point Google used when I typed in the city name. I realize it works better for some cities than other, less centrally concentrated cities.

    If you want to include temporary “home” venues a la Toronto/Bills (97.6 mi from Buffalo to Rogers Centre), you can also consider Hartford, which occasionally hosted Celtics games (100 miles southwest) or Milwaukee, where Green Bay used to play a few games (120 miles south).

    terriblehuman – I think the prize has to go to the Utah Jazz, who played a quarter of their “home” games in Las Vegas during the 1984 season – according to Google Maps, that’s 423 miles!

    Pizza Hut Park 14.3 miles from Chicago? You mean Toyota Park.

    Besides, these measurements are a bit misleading. Sure, Toyota is 11 miles from downtown, but the suburb of Bridgeview is right on the border of Chicago; the stadium is about a mile from the border, as the crow flies.

    DJ – you’re right, I initially wrote “Pizza Hut Park” for Dallas, then corrected myself, but then ended up screwing up Toyota Park.

    Matt B – Of course, all of that will be trumped if Jacksonville establishes London as its second home, some 4000+ miles away.

    Toyota Park (where the MLS Chicago Fire play) is a terrific intimate red brick stadium in an absolutely horribly inconvenient location, Bridgeview, IL Ask half the people of Chicago who the Fire are or where they play and they’d have NO idea. The most under marketed sports property in Chicago.

    Second bonus for MLS fans. Dicks Sporting Goods Park (what an awful name!) is about a mile north of the Denver city limit.

    Totally forgot about when the Expos played “home” games in San Juan – that’s got to be at least 4000 miles away…

    Yup – Levi’s Stadium will be 43 miles from San Francisco. Also in the bay area, Cisco Field would probably be about 37 miles from Oakland.

    I guess they’d become the San Jose Athletics (apparently that’s part of the deal?), though “San Jose A’s” is awkward and too rhyme-y for me.

    How far is the Meadowlands from NYC? Seems like at least a dozen miles as the crow flies and about 30 by road.

    “… Craig shared images from his years with ERC Inglostadt. The Panthers wear navy and light blue. This is Craig wearing the club jersey with the skyline of the town of Inglostadt imprinted with team sponsors. The assistant captain A and manufacturer swoosh are nearly lost in the front clutter. The Christmas version had Santa Clause in his sleigh above the same skyline…”

    Kind of epic, that Inglostadt skyline jersey, in its glorious ugly clutter. Craig comes across wonderfully, Morris; nice job.

    Seriously, Brandon, that Farmer’s Market print is one of the sharpest, cleverest things I’ve seen in a long, long time. And the Gloversville High helmet is sharper than nearly all of the college junk we’ve seen these last few weeks.

    I also like how the stripes in the Lee Evans print very subtly evoke the memory of the late, lamented Buffalo Braves.

    Really beautiful!

    Thanks alot guys, I really appreciate it! I have to be honest Cort. The tie in with the Buffalo Braves wasn’t my intention and I’ve actually never noticed that until you mentioned it. I guess it’s one of those happy accidents. Great observation indeed.

    I can never hear the name Merton Hanks without thinking about how long his neck is. And then when he’d do his “funky chicken” dance after an interception I always thought his head was going to fall off.

    I’m surprised Merton Hanks didn’t mandate a link for every player. The thing looks like it’s about to snap!

    Don’t get to comment much ever so will just add that the stripe on Dunedin Hugh’s helmet is based on Scottish tartans because the town loves their Scottish heritage

    Really like those minimalist NHL logos.

    Those relatively uncomplicated Marist College football uni eyesores, on the other hand… Too bad, really. One of the best nicknames anywhere — Red Foxes! Great part of the world (I realize most people do not use the words “great” and “Poughkeepsie” in the same sentence, but the Hudson Valley is really happening these days), great attitude towards BCS ambitions (ie, fuhgeddaboudit), great potential ironic-detachment fan base in hipsters looking for something after Beacon DIA), overall great uni possibilities.

    There’s also work to be done on the fight song:

    “… Marist Fight Song
    (Shout) — M-A-R —- I-S-T,
    MARIST, COLLEGE to victory!

    (music interlude)

    1st Verse
    Marist, College, Let the bells ring.
    Honor, Glory, Your Praises We Sing.

    We’re here with banners fly-ing!
    Our shouts of victory cry-ing! Rah! – Rah! – Rah!

    Alma, Mater, We love you dear.
    Conquering, Heroes, We’re here to cheer.

    We have no fear for Marist College,
    We’ll fight on to victory….”

    Can we do a Kickstarter thing to rescue poor Marist?

    I always assumed the Red Foxes fight song was “Theme from ‘Sanford and Son'”.

    You’ve been a great audience. Be sure to tip your waitress.

    I couldn’t agree more. The unis last year were gorgeous. I don’t know what to make of this nonsense.

    Just keep the hipsters away. They’re already ruining Beacon. No need to spread it to PK.

    Thanks for the Poughkeepsie love! Hipsters tried to invade but it didn’t take. My fiance is a Marist Grad. Unanimous thumbs down out here regarding the new home unis. Good grief!

    Official school colors of Tennessee: orange, white, and smokey. Not gray, smokey. ( SFSS, Smokey for Smokey sake?)


    Well that’s nice. I suppose it will give adidas a nice tag line when they introduce a gray… ahem, smokey uniform. “Representing the timelessness of the smog-covered Tennessee Appalachians…”

    I knew I’d get called on that.

    FWIW, I know that I’ve heard before that pollution has added to or altered the look of the “smoke”, but honestly, I don’t claim to know a lot about it. And hey, I like the Smokies, just so we’re clear.

    That Ingolstadt skyline jersey would be a nice one if not for all the advertising.

    And then there’s even more advertising on the ice: there are two rows of ads; one on the boards and one behind it.

    I really don’t see how the (admirable) greater sense of localism in European hockey justifies slapping hideous advertisements all over the place in any way at all. One just doesn’t flow from the other. Advertisers like Siemens and LG are multinational corporations; this isn’t some mom-and-pop shop down the street from the arena, or even a venerable local employer. These are big companies who already bombard our senses with their advertising in many other places besides uniforms.

    If “sponsors” really want to be part of the community, the least they can do is integrate their own logos with the team’s uniform, not the other way around. Case in point: the corporate owners of Japanese baseball teams. The link have the corporation’s name on the sleeves of the jerseys, but the name is in the baseball team’s jersey font, and doesn’t look anywhere near as jarring as when logos straight out of corporate manuals appear on European soccer and hockey jerseys, clashing colors and shapes intact.

    It’s possible to integrate local pride with a sponsor. Imagine that Ingolstadt had a big company with a strong local identification. Then imagine that that company designed an additional logo for itself that fit with the team’s look. Put that look on the uniform, and put it on the company’s products (so that people buying the products are reminded of the team), and you might have something good. But I don’t see that happening at all: the corporate logos displace everything with no regard for aesthetics.

    I don’t think the Japanese baseball teams are the best comparison, since “YOMIURI” isn’t the sponsor – it’s part of the team name. Of course it’s in the team font because it’s the Yomiuri font.

    The argument one could make is that at least in European hockey or soccer, the corporate benefactor’s identity is kept separate from the club’s.

    It’s not the Yomiuri font — that font is a baseball jersey font first and foremost (and came from the link originally). The Yomiuri newspaper conglomerate went so far as to make their corporate name part of the team name, but in doing so, they sublimated their name into the team’s look, so to see their name isn’t such an aesthetic crime as it would otherwise be.

    (As a Hanshin Tigers fan, I never thought I would say anything good about the Giants, but there you have it.)

    I don’t pay enough attention to corporate logos to be able to tell (and never will), but have there been examples of sponsors who have developed new logos or wordmarks specifically to integrate their look with the team they’re sponsoring?

    I see your point. Though Yomiuri has always owned the Giants since their founding (and well before the newspaper/broadcaster developed an Romanized wordmark) that the team is part of the corporate identity.

    Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any corporation that adjusted its identity for a team. I think this is a rare case where the team is bigger than the corporation. Other Japanese teams tend to use the standard corporate wordmark (I’m thinking SoftBank, Orix and Rakuten, specifically).

    The Motor City jersey lacks imagination, it needed something which is linked to the auto industry heritage. I found it to be quite depressing, just like the condition of Detroit in recent years.

    I like that Southampton kits are link, Janssen didn’t actually link to their photographs.

    Also, you have to like the link.

    Also, maybe it’s a good thing that they’re wearing solid red instead of stripes, since adidas is outfitting link and link, two other clubs with red/white stripes. It may be boring, but at least it’s different.

    Haha, I did attach photos of the kits and linked the template kits in the body of my email.

    In the email I did note that red and white stripes aren’t exactly unique in the Premier League, but then again with the gold badging on the current kits Southampton look like Liverpool so it’s a lose lose on forging a distinct identity. Last year’s pinstripes grew on me as the season progressed (as I was always a fan of Spain’s 2006 kit) and it would have been nice to at least retain those instead of going solid red. I will say I’m a fan of the hooped socks with this year’s kit.

    Maybe Southampton should have kept their 125 year anniversary kits, the red sash and black socks looked great and would have distinguished them from Sunderland and Stoke and pretty much everyone else


    “Europeans accept game jersey advertising because European uniforms historically had minimal decoration.”

    I’m not saying this isn’t true, Morris, but it may be farther from the truth than the reasons I’ve heard.

    As per a couple of guys I know who played in Europe, the teams aren’t owned by billionaires (except in the KHL). Because the owners actually run the team like a business, they use sponsorship and advertising dollars to pay for things like arena costs and player salaries. The owners of Euro-based teams rarely make huge profits like the NY Rangers or Toronto Maple Leafs, but they do turn profits after gate receipts are factored in.

    In short, ticket sales and merchandise sales don’t cover off all the costs of running a team, so sponsorship and advertising helps fill the void. For those teams with massive followings, though, they make bundles of money because they sell more merch and have more people buying tickets.

    This, in turn, is why players like Thornton and Nash can play in Switzerland with little worry about money. HC Davos has a massive following, and can afford to spend a little extra cash on players that will significantly improve their fortunes.

    Right – European leagues don’t have (equal) revenue sharing and salary caps, so they rely on sponsorship money to be competitive. If the Miami Heat put the American Airlines logo on their jersey, it won’t help them keep LeBron when he becomes a free agent. But a new shirt sponsorship deal for Real Madrid could be the help them sign Gareth Bale, for example.

    I tend to agree – it’s primarily about differences in economic models. At the league level, of course, American sports are organized on a nearly textbook socialist model, whereas European leagues are organized on a nearly textbook capitalist model. This is mirrored at the team level: American teams are generally sole proprietorships or close partnerships that practice as a cartel. European teams tend to be joint-stock companies, less limited partnerships, or even subsidiaries of larger conglomerates (some of which are themselves sole proprietorships or close partnerships) that operate independently.

    Within a cartel, there’s relatively little incentive for any particular team to push for uniform advertising, and less incentive for advertisers to participate. Revenue-sharing, which is extensive within the American cartel model, means that the teams whose jerseys would command the highest advertising prices would take a bath on that revenue, while the shared-revenue structure tends to overprice advertising space on the less-attractive teams (smaller-market teams, or commonly underperforming teams in larger markets).

    When teams operate outside of a cartel, which is to say generating revenue in competition against, rather than in cooperation with, other teams, the incentives for advertising are too strong to resist. Even a low-level team can generate some revenue by jersey advertising, and not doing so amounts to walking away from income. Teams that can command the most ad revenue also have a material competitive advantage – the best teams can raise the most ad revenue, which increases their ability to sign better players, which makes them an even better team than their rivals, which raises the value of their jerseys as ad space, which brings in more revenue, which they can spend to become a better team, which raises the value of their jerseys as ad space … ad infinitum.

    Or just walk through the hypothetical. We understand that if SV Strelsau in the Ruritanian Bundesliga can sell jersey ads at a higher rate than their rivals VfL Bardu, Streslau will do so and use the revenue to marginally improve its team and business operations. Over time, this will amount to a significant competitive advantage, and Streslau will come to dominate Bardu. So Streslau has every incentive to pursue that revenue, and none to eschew it.

    Now imagine you’re running the Yankees, and someone comes to you with the offer to pay for an ad on your jersey. Say an ad on a Yankees jersey would be worth $25 million per year if the Yankees could sell it on their own, while the average price other AL teams could charge is only $10 million per year. That would widen the Yankees’ competitive advantage over the rest of the league by $15 million a year, and so of course the Yankees would do that if they could. But in MLB, the league would likely take the Yankees’ $25 million, mingle it with the $140 million from ad sales from the rest of the AL, and then cut every team in the league a check for $11 million. Under this scenario, not only do the Yankees not increase their competitive advantage over other teams by $15 million, they actually see the value of their existing revenue advantage diluted by about 4%. (Based on press accounts that put the Yankees at about $302 million in annual revenue.)

    In a cartel, the Yankees actually lose competitive advantage by accepting ad revenue. That’s not just a weaker incentive structure than the Ruritanian team, it’s a financial disincentive to accepting that revenue. If the cartel is governed by simple majority and each team is perfectly rational, then eventually we can expect the league to adopt advertising precisely because it moderates the competitive advantage of any top-revenue teams. But most leagues operate under either formal or informal supermajority or consensus rules, and sole proprietorships and close partnerships are more likely than joint-stock businesses to act irrationally (in the academic sense of economic rationality), so just a few teams with real or perceived disincentives to ad revenue can block introduction of uniform advertising.



    Actually, this is a fantastic explanation (I really should have you just do a lede on this some day) and should be read by all UWers. I’m sure many (most?) of us ‘mericans fancy our sports teams to be the beacons of capitalistic, winner-take-all, money-grabbing gone amok (think Steinbrenner & Jerry Jones), but as R. Scott points out well (and has before), it’s actually quite the opposite.

    A topic most worthy of further exploration, for sure (Scotty? You up for it some time?)

    I hope you guys do a piece on jersey sponsorship.

    It’s worth noting that the smaller the teams and the leagues, the fewer ads you see. International soccer and Champions League have the fewest, while lower divisions and smaller countries have the most ads. And in English soccer, link and the above-linked Jägermeister sponsorship was for a small, provincial club.

    Sure, but only if we can get some of UW’s great concepters to do up some Ruritanian Bundesliga concepts. I can do the Yankees and Royals jersey ad sponsorship graphics that would need to accompany it.

    FWIW, I’m pretty sure the Ruritanian Bundesliga is currently made up of Strelsau, Bordu, Zenda, Kronstadt, Hentzau, Strackenz, and Schlossgarten. I may not be up-to-date on this year’s relegation. (The odd number is just one of Ruritania’s many strange traditions.) Sponsors are mainly Czech brewers and Austrian banks.

    The Yankees seem to get it — they have the most lucrative local media contracts in the major leagues, and they go along with the revenue sharing plan, albeit grudgingly. Jerry Jones is the guy who does not grasp the notion that he’s not really competing against the other teams in the NFL; the NFL is collectively competing with every other entertainment business.

    The problem with cartels is that sooner or later, the haves are propping up an poor performer, which leads to resentments, which threatens stability. That’s why the European system of promotions and relegations makes so much more sense.

    The Championship, the second tier of English football, is the 4th or 5th most popular soccer league in the world. Fan support is rabid, and the competition is fierce. What’s worse? A league where players have ads on their jerseys and every team has a reasonable expectation of winning a championship (or dropping to the next lowest level of competition), or an ad-free league, where the largess of, say, the Yankees and the Dodgers allows the Padres, Marlins, and Mariners to relentlessly pursue ignominy?

    FWIW, in the Majors, the most free market-like of the Big 4 leagues, link, and I think that’s very much the result of “socialist” policies like the luxury tax, revenue sharing and caps on drafted rookie salaries.

    But yeah, the recent labor disputes in North America really had nothing to do with labor, and had everything to do with the divide between the big markets and the small markets.

    Just to be precise, th, the luxury tax and other revenue-sharing practices are not socialism, they’re cartel behavior. Socialism is chiefly a question of public ownership of the means of production. It’s the question of, who owns the factory, or the farm, or, in this case, the stadium. When the public finances and/or owns a team’s stadium, that team is to a significant extent a socialist enterprise. (The bad kind of socialism, actually: At least when a banana republic nationalizes an oil company, the public gets the profits. In American sports socialism, the public pays for the team’s capital while private individuals pocket the profits.)

    It’s important to try to be precise in using these terms, especially since the last 5 years have seen “socialism” become a commonly used political insult divorced from any real meaning. “Cartel” likewise has an assumed negative connotation. But pointing out that American sports leagues are in large part socialist cartels is not the same thing as condemning them. The cartel aspect, in particular, has some very positive effects. Even stadium socialism has both positive and negative aspects for all stakeholders, including the public.

    “When a banana republic nationalizes an oil company, the public gets the profits.”

    Tell that to the people living in shantys around Port Harcourt.

    The only difference between a Steinbrenner, who uses threats, bullying, and appeals to public vanity to get a stadium, and Idi Amin, who used threats, bullying and appeals to public vanity to nationalize Ugandan industries and seize the assets of non-Ugandan resident aliens is that the Steinbrenners don’t actually keep the decapitated heads of their opponents in a refrigerator in their pantry; they just dream about doing it. They’re both raping the body politic.

    I can think of a few more differences, but sure. I guess I’m saying, in theory, pure socialism returns the profits to the public owners, whereas in practice, American sports socialism does not. Of course, as Homer says, “In theory, communism works.”

    You’re right. King George and the Last King of Scotland do have a few more differences. Idi never signed Carl Pavano, for starters.

    It seems that most European fans understand that the jersey sponsorships, however aesthetically displeasing, are just the cost of doing business.

    Brooklyn Magazine did a photo essay on “Brooklyn’s Most Iconic Signs” last month. Most of them were for businesses that had long ago disappeared: the sign had become a landmark and a touchstone completely divorced from its original intent. Soccer shirt ads are a little like that. A fan wearing a shirt that says “MANSION” on it isn’t thinking about a large casino; he’s showing support for Tottenham Hotspur. The interesting thing about the ads is that for the team supporters, they aren’t really ads, but team iconography.

    To that same point, it’s one thing to mess around with shirt ads, just don’t change team colors. No one in Cardiff blinked when “Malaysia” appeared on their kit, but when team ownership changed the kit from blue and white to red, people went nuts.

    This is an excellent discussion in general but misses one key point. US leagues other than Major League Soccer are all by far the biggest and most watched leagues playing those games. This is simply not true for any European league.

    Since the EPL or La Liga has to use the same pool of talent and seeks many of the same viewers they compete with each others at the league level. As uni ads came into leagues in the 70’s each national league adopted them at different times but the whole process was pretty brief since the added revenue created such an advantage in signing players and this led to more “neutral” viewers choosing to watch their league.

    But US leagues don’t have this problem. Without ads they can still pay far more than any competing league for baseball, basketball, and hockey players. Of course there really is no other league of American Football, the CFL is at best a low minor league somewhere around the level of the Pac 12. So there is no reason for the cartel to adopt ads, since it would annoy some people and some fraction of the revenue would just go to the players anyway, the same players who would be in the league without the ads most importantly.

    That’s a great point. And maybe that’s why it’s easier for US sports to maintain their cartels.

    Yet another example of American Exceptionalism!

    FYI – the ball player you described is from Millville. Millville and Vineland have only been rivals for a century or so. (Proud lifelong SJersey native, waiting patiently to secede from North Jersey) And we would love to have that guy with the Phils.

    i have to heavily agree with this comment. the player in question would be welcomed with open arms and wallets in philly. as a fellow sj native, i feel he would be more storied than his impressive start is already

    Maybe it was the red uniforms, or it’s just too early in the morning, but I totally read that first college uni update as “Marxist College.”

    So you talked to your friend Craig, wrote up a summary of your conversation, and didn’t bother to include any direct quotations to allow him to speak for themselves? “Craig was struck,” “Craig found,” “Craig shared,” but no actual words from Craig…

    I’m sorry, but a pretty odd, if totally unprofessional interview.

    Bando – I appreciate the feedback. I did consider copying and pasting the entire interview I did with Craig. I’ll check in with Phil and see about the posting-logistics of adding that. Thanks for the encouragement!

    I like! Still looking forward to seeing how the white jerseys look with the ‘checkerboard’ pattern in the numerals.

    I count 10 Swooshes on Allen Robinson, football, glove, wristband, armband, jersey, shorts, one on the instep of the right shoe and one on the medial side, one on the left foot and one on the sock. Of course, you can’t see the top half of the football, the other glove, wristband, armband, other sock, and lateral side of the right shoe. So in reality he is showing at least 16 Swooshes.

    The Phoenix Suns uniform unveil is tonight. There’s an interesting retrospective on showing some of the concepts from the early 90s when the team switched to its iconic fireball uniform.

    I may be biased because I am from there, but I always wholeheartedly approved of the Hornets’ NOLA wordmark on the jerseys. On the other hand, PHX and ATL for the Suns and Hawks, respectively, came across as really weak.

    You know, it’s funny — when I was compiling that list, I never even thought about the Warriors uni, but instead I was going to say something like “The only possible exception to an abbreviation would be PHILA., because the full name is too long to fit on most jerseys.” But that’s a city name, not a team name. No team name should EVER be too long to fit on a uni (IMO).

    Two more views of Tennessee‘s new smokey gray unis.

    Damn, those trademark treadmarks are apparent (since they’re adidas graphics, they may not be so noticeable on the actual uni)

    Well, if you eliminated Adidas’s stupid treadmark crap, and put a matching helmet on it, it wouldn’t look terrible.

    With the tire treads now, and the not-quite-zubaz thing on the basketball uniforms, it’s almost like Adidas is trying to make teams look like shit. Is this the result of some drunken bet or what?

    Re: the blue ND jerseys – I can’t tell if it’s because of the fabric and how it’s laying or not, but I’m not sure those are traditional block numbers. It looks like they might be “Gaelic”-style numbers, but I can’t be sure. It would help if it was a number other than 1. Anyone know anything?

    I don’t think the numbers on the standard (blue or white) jerseys are Gaelic font. They may seem curved because they’re sewn-on tackle twill numbers on a very stretchy fabric.

    I think the actual change is the gold trim now matches the pants (Adidas’s “old gold” color as opposed to “sandstorm.”)

    Well, yeah, but I mean the part we actually get to see once the jersey goes over it.

    The Knicks changed there uniform to read Knicks at home with the number above the word Knicks and the same with the road uniform with the number above the word New York 1979-1983. link

    The 1961-1968 is to me the best looking uniform the Knicks had .If the had them now with HD the Colors would pop

    Referring to Southampton as “the Southampton Saints” is a bit like referring to Manchester United as “the Manchester Red Devils”. They are either Southampton, or the Saints. Remember, any time you feel the urge to apply American naming practices (i,e, the [team city] …s) to English football teams, stop. Even Wolverhampton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspurs will never have a “the” before them.

    Unless you’re referring to the Hull City Tigers, of course.

    And since we’re nitpicking, that’s Tottenham Hotspur, with no ‘s’.

    Actually, this demonstrates my objection to the lede today. Sports clubs may have more to do with community in Europe than the U.S., but it’s moves like this at Hull which demonstrate that the trend is moving distinctly away from that. It’s no longer about making small aesthetic concessions for business in order to retain the community aspect, because owners, especially in the Premiership, care less and less about the community fan base and are more interested in broader branding appeal. In end the community is being explicitly told that they don’t matter in a global sporting world, and their team’s jerseys still look like crap.

    As for Spurs, well I’m an idiot.

    I love City, but that rationale for their Vegas kit is a stretch.

    Ardwick FC played in long sleeved black sweaters and white shorts. They had a white Maltese Cross on the breast. The club’s official history offers two reasons for the adornment: the club has been founded by members of St. Mark’s Church, and it was recognition of that connection; or it was representative of the club’s strong ties to the Freemasonry movement. The black shirt was simple, with a strong graphic element. The white pants have become iconic for the club.

    Had City been founded by Liza Minelli while doing lines of coke with Elton John and Marty Scorcese in the ladies room at Studio 54, those shimmery duotone dismals would be a perfect homage to the club’s heritage.

    seriously looks like the phoenix mercury jerseys. I am so disappointed in my hometown team right now. I feel that the yellow and brown padres jersey are 50 times better than these

    The reason that advertising is not on the jerseys is strictly cost-benefit. Merchandising would suffer if there was obtrusive advertising. The product would be diluted. If there was really were more money to be made, the leagues would not care about fan objections. Pure and simple.

    Wow, Phil. You’re losing it. Spelling Uni Watch with a hyphen, misspelling Detroit, and an apostrophe catastrophe in “jersey’s”…

    First my thoughts on the Pistons. Looks like a cheap fan jersey. But then again I hate those stupid airport abbreviations, city nicknames and all as well. Technically not the same but doesn’t the Golden State Warriors already do something like this?

    Second. Those Suns jerseys were a huge letdown. I wish they would’ve just gone with a tweaked 90’s look. These look terrible but still better than what they have been wearing although not by much. But why are they wearing the orange t-shirt alts? I thought NBA rules kept teams to 2 uniforms in the first year of a change? Did they get a pass because they were willing to wear something that looks like Urkel would wear it to his weekend rec league?

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