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Interesting move yesterday by the Devils, who announced a new program called Buy Black. Between now and Oct. 29, local Black-owned businesses can apply to be chosen as the team’s new helmet advertiser. The business that’s chosen will get to advertise on the team’s helmets for 13 home games this season, beginning on Dec. 8. For those 13 games, the team’s primary helmet advertiser — a large insurance company — will step aside and donate the space to the local business.
As a staunch opponent of third-party ads on sports uniforms, I’ve had some fun pondering the pros and cons of this one. On the one hand, repping a local minority-owned business is certainly better than repping a soulless insurance company (or any other corporate monolith). The Devils deserve credit for coming up with this idea, and the insurance company deserves credit for donating their ad space (even if it’ll ultimately end up as a tax write-off on their balance sheet). The whole thing seems particularly relevant given that (a) hockey has struggled with Black audiences, and (b) the Devils play their home games in Newark, one of the NHL’s few majority-Black cities. (I think the only other one is Detroit.)
On the other hand, uni ads are still uni ads, and I still don’t like them. Here’s a thought experiment: If MLB teams began wearing cap and helmet ads for local minority-owned businesses next season, would you see that as a commendable thing? Or would you say, “This is obviously the next step on the road to full-blown corporate uni ads”?
In other words: Context matters. In this case, given that NHL helmets are already a lost cause, then sure, I guess repping a local business for a few games is a nice gesture compared to what all the other NHL teams are doing. But it’s still a lot worse than no ads, and it’s also worse than the Jazz’s cancer charity patch.
Speaking of which: When the Jazz debuted that charity patch, I thought/hoped it might spur a few other NBA teams to do something similar with their jersey ads. Four years later, that hasn’t happened. What about the the Devils’ program — will it inspire any copycats? Hmmmm.
Meanwhile, as long as we’re talking about NHL helmet ads:
• There were four NHL teams that went through the entire preseason with ad-free helmets: the Flyers, Avalanche, Oilers, and Maple Leafs. Alas, now that the regular season has started, the Leafs have announced their new bucket advertiser (and it’s definitely not a local business). But the Avs and Oilers were still ad-free last night, huzzah! As for the Flyers, their season opener isn’t until tomorrow, so we’ll see.
• The Capitals, ever innovating, appear to be the first team whose helmet ad is now raised/3D:
(Thanks to Evan Knode for spotting the new Caps ad.)
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Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images; click to enlarge
Patchwork: We’ve known for a while now that the Rangers would be adding a memorial patch for Rod Gilbert. But they didn’t wear the patch during the preseason or even reveal the design, so last night’s season opener provided our first look at it (as shown above). Here’s a closer look, which reveals that they’ve taken a Cardinals-esque approach:
Also: As you can see, the Rangers are wearing this patch on the shoulder, not on the chest. That’s pretty standard for them — they’ve been doing the shoulder thing for many years. But if you look at their patch history (you have to click on all the little “P” icons on that page), they’ve usually worn patches on the right shoulder — although they did use the left shoulder for the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals, the 1999 Hall of Fame Game, the 9/11 ribbon, and the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals. And now for the Gilbert patch. I can’t figure out any rhyme or reason to the shoulder choice.
(My thanks to Alan Kreit for the close-up photo of the patch.)
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Click to enlarge
NBA leaks, continued: Brazilian leakmeister Igor Coelho’s latest scoop is the Celtics’ new City alternate. You can learn more about its historical antecedents in this Twitter thread.
(My thanks to Phil, who was the first to let me know about this one.)
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Click to enlarge
Too good for the Ticker: Oh baby, check out this amazing 1980s North Dakota State hockey jersey! Naturally, I dig the color scheme, but I dig the logo even more. That negative-space hockey stick — too much!
If you like this jersey as much as I do, it’s currently available on eBay.
(Mega-thanks to Brett Baker for this one.)
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Press Pin reminder: The 2021 Uni Watch Press Pin, based on the look of championship rings, continues to be a steady seller — we’re now down to 51 pins remaining. It’s available here while supplies last. My thanks, as always, for considering our products!
Baseball News: The Highline Bears, a collegiate wood-bat summer team, are letting fans vote on whether they should be renamed the Seal Slingers or the Fish Sticks. … Here are this year’s Arizona Fall League caps (from @greeneyes_scott). … Back in 2006, in the very first post on this blog, I wrote that the big trend in uniforms at the time was the move toward “superhero costumes” with a “heavy comic book influence” — a trend that has only intensified in the subsequent 15 years. Most of the superhero influence has been implicit and stylistic, but Minor League Baseball has now taken a more literal approach to the superhero trope by striking a three-year deal with Marvel, which will include superhero-themed uniforms. Details in this thread (thanks, Phil).
NFL News: Here are this week’s uni combos for the Titans, Broncos, Eagles, and Bengals (thanks, Phil). … More Jon Gruden fallout: He’s been removed from the Madden 22 video game and has lost his endorsement deal with the footwear brand Skechers.
Hockey News: Ligue Nord-Americaine de Hockey — a lower-level minor pro league based in Quebec — has a new 25th-anniversary logo (from Wade Heidt). … Avs G Darcy Kuemper apparently had an issue with his mask during last night’s game, so he switched to last season’s mask that he wore with the Coyotes. … The latest hint that the Sharks have a throwback uni in the works: At a recent practice, they wore helmets with their old wordmark (good spot by Luke Hunter).
Pro Basketball News: With the start of the regular season less than a week away, there are two NBA teams that don’t currently have jersey ads — the Wizards and Grizzlies. I know for a fact that one of these teams is seeking a new advertiser, and I assume the other one is as well, although it’s unclear whether any deals will be struck in time for the start of the season. … Here’s a good behind-the-scenes look at the Lakers’ equipment room (thanks, Phil). … New uniforms for the Tasmania JackJumpers — now there’s a team name! — of Australia’s National Basketball League (from Kary Klismet).
Soccer News: Several Faroe Islands players in Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier against Scotland had NOBs in the first half but went NNOB in the second half, as seen in these before and after shots of left-back Ári Mohr Jónsson (No. 19 in both pics). It may have been due to a weather-driven shirt switcheroo (thanks, Jamie).
Minor correction, the Capitals were at home last night.
Speaking of the Capitals, wouldn’t their base in Washington DC count as a majority Black city? Newark and Detroit were conceded
According to this chart, Washington is not majority-Black:
I lived in the DC area at the time, and it was a big deal in 2011 when the annual census surveys showed that DC was no longer a majority-black city.
“The Perth Wildcasts.” Should be Perth WILDCATS?
Yes, thanks. Fixed.
There is never any good reason to have uni ads on a uniform, no matter the context.
I find the “Buy Black” thing to be exclusionary. What about Asian owned businesses? Middle Eastern? Or any other non-white ethnic group that owns a business? Regardless, any such measure runs counter to “inclusion” to ALL businesses, including white owned. Any talk of inclusion is defeated by deliberately excluding other groups. America fought to eliminate segregation and exclusionary practices and here we are, bringing it back.
Bottom line, this shouldn’t even be up for discussion. Ads on uniforms are just as soulless. Leave ads off uniforms.
I sort of feel the same way. Uni-ads are in of themselves a soulless greedy venture. As Paul notes, the Devils’ actual helmet sponsor gets good PR and a write off for this. The Devils still get their ad revenue.
I’d like to feel a little good about this, but in reality it feels like a soulless move, with the billion dollars entities involved doing it more for the PR than for the benefit of others, knowing they aren’t actually having to give up anything for it.
I half expect it the formal name to be: “NJ Devils Buy Black Program, Sponsored by Mega Insurance Company”
I find the “Buy Black” thing to be exclusionary. What about Asian owned businesses? Middle Eastern? Or any other non-white ethnic group that owns a business
Sounds like the paralysis of too many choices; “You can’t do everything, so don’t do anything.” When contemplating a charitable act, stick with one that has specific meaning to you, and hope your gesture inspires others.
Hey, Paul, today’s NY Times mini crossword references unis! I imagine you might hear about this a few times today.
i hate to say it, but i consider us in the US lucky in terms of uni advertising. NFL and MLB are currently ad free (excluding excessive maker’s marks) and the NBA and NHL are currently holding at small ads placed in not-so-obnoxious locations. while i am staunchly anti-uni-advertising, i find the latter two league’s ads (while disruptive of potentially clean and nice uni design) easy to ignore to the point that they are white noise at this point (and yes, i know that’s exactly what “they” want so the next round of larger, more obvious ads doesn’t seems as intrusive). but let’s face it, whenever i see a new soccer jersey, or anything from the japanese or mexican baseball leagues, or international basketball, or many rugby leagues, i know it’s going to look like the sunday newspaper’s coupon section more than an athletic jersey. so right now i am counting my blessings.
i was all for this socially conscious move by the devils (as i was when the jazz announced their “charity” ad) until i saw that this opportunity was donated by the teams large corporate sponsor for a limited amount of games. while there is still some value in the ad space for whoever receives the “honor”, the weight of the greater context tilts this stunt pretty far into the realm of benefiting the original ad sponsor in terms of image, write-offs, and ultimately bottom line and social, political, and corporate favor.
while i don’t think humanity in general has lost its ability to be charitable, empathetic, or moral, and just simply do the right thing because it is the right thing, or do a good thing because it is a good thing to do, i do believe that the corporate aspect of humanity (a major oxymoron, i know) has indeed lost that faculty.
it hurts me to feel that we have come to this point. that good things and positive opportunities are out there for everyone, but that they often come only as scraps that (let’s call them) “the haves” occasionally toss down to the “have nots” when the haves believe it will somehow return benefits of far greater value than the value of those scraps. it creates a scenario where the have nots can be so easily painted as illogical, ungrateful, or unambitious to say “no thank you for this trojan horse”. on the other hand, should the have nots accept the charity, they can be painted as selling out, or getting ahead only by “playing the game”, or receiving undue favor. ultimately it creates a world where the little guy can often get ahead only by helping the big guy profit, or allowing the big guy to own or control some level of the little guy’s success.
back to the uni ads themselves, one of my metrics on which i judge uni design is “if this team wins a championship in this uniform, how will it age as a cover of ‘pictorial athletic magazine'”? if the answer is that it will look like a nonsensical ad for a middling american motorcycle manufacturer, it’s basically DQed in my book.
Comment of the
day month yeardecade.
wow. thank you, sir. this was one of those pieces that you do often post that connect the somewhat niche world of uni-design with the trends of the grander human experience. i appreciate you and all the folks at uni-watch for that!
“while i don’t think humanity in general has lost its ability to be charitable, empathetic, or moral, and just simply do the right thing because it is the right thing, or do a good thing because it is a good thing to do, i do believe that the corporate aspect of humanity (a major oxymoron, i know) has indeed lost that faculty.”
My thoughts exactly. If business are doing “charitable” actions with the intent and knowledge that said actions will benefit the company, they cease to be charitable acts. However I don’t begrudge the have nots for taking part on their end in 99.9% of situations.
But what have you achieved when the “haves” say, “Fine, then; the offer is rescinded”?
Maybe we should work on having the “haves” not have so much (way more than anyone needs to have) and the “have nots” have a little more to begin with. Have I been clear enough? Perhaps I have not.
Keeping one’s integrity, perhaps?
I am not necessarily saying the have-not should reject the offer. I was rather agreeing that much of the “corporate citizen good will gestures” aren’t done out of altruism, but done knowing that the corporate citizen sees benefit from it, either from good publicity, tax benefits, or whatever. If there are no strings attached, then the lack of altruism is sort of moot to the recipient. Right?
Perhaps a comparison would be if you are walking home from a date, and in trying to look good in front of your date you give some money to a homeless person you’d otherwise have not given to. You didn’t give to that person out of altruism, yet that money will still help them regardless.
Dave & Paul —
Imagine sending this to every league office exec in charge of ad placement initiatives. Then imagine their visual response after reading your on-point perspective.
I can imagine it. And depressingly, I don’t like what I see.
They just don’t get it. Too blinded by greed.
I got the nameplate thing on the Celtics unis immediately, so they did something right. But other than that, I liked last year’s design based on the championship banners better.
RE: this weeks NFL uniform matchups. Bears wearing their white 1936 throwbacks hosting the Packers. Shame the Packers also don’t wear their green throwbacks in this game, and the teams don’t repeat the matchup at Lambeau later in the season. Feels like the perfect opportunity for full on throwback game(s), even if it is 1936 vs 1953.
Though would be truly great if they just went ahead and did a full on 1936 throwback matchup.
For the AZ Fall league, it looks as if only Scottsdale has changed the cap colors. Previously had been all black.
One note, Paul. The Wild went through the entire pre-season add free on their lids. They just announced that Toyota is their new helmet sponsor. Interesting note though – they the logo is different in their social media release vs the article about the partnership on the team website. Great stuff as always!
Ad* ugh :(
Thanks, Karl — I missed that!
I like the look of the Columbia uniforms, but what is the significance of the 67 patch and helmet?
The NHL does not call its final series the “Stanley Cup Finals.”
It is the “Stanley Cup Final.” Singular. It is not the NBA, which for reasons that do not hold water, insists on calling a single series a plural.
Please fix this in the Rangers’ patch section.
Adding: the patch itself for the 2014 Stanley Cup Final says right on it: “FINAL.” If the league calls its championship series the “Final,” surely that is how it should be written about.
How do we feel about local small business ads and sponsors at the lower levels of sports or even at the Little League level? A la Chico’s Bail Bonds (which, I know is a fictional example).
Chico’s Bail Bonds might be the funniest bit in a very funny movie.
I never really thought of it much, but in my town every little league team was known by its sponsor. We didn’t have Red Sox or Yankees or Cubs. We had Town Pizza, the credit union, a plumbing supply co, a paper company, dairy freeze, a pharmacy, Lions Club, etc
These local companies were donors, they supported the league & bought the uniforms & the teams were simply named after them. I played for the Credit Union. Good & bad: we had beautiful UNC color combo of light blue hat & tops w/ navy lettering & #s but it was a bummer because I always felt like the pizza team & ice cream team got to go out after games to get free food?
And in my town there was no advertising on our little league (Williamsport Affiliated) uniforms at all. Any advertising was done in annual yearbooks or in/on outfield fences.
The big difference between the local teams (little leagues, etc.) having a company name on the front and a big-time pro team wearing a patch is that many times the small, local team/league wouldn’t exist without the financial support of those companies. They’re truly sponsoring the team/league; putting up the money that makes the competition happen. At the big-time pro level, the competition would exist and thrive without that company name/logo on the uniform. Executive and player salaries might be slightly less out-of-control, but the team still will exist and compete. That isn’t sponsorship, it’s pure advertisement.
To Good for the Ticker is right – that NDSU hockey sweater is NICE.
The Coyotes also have not had helmet ads during the preseason. At least not on the road whites. I haven’t seen any pictures from their home games.
You’re right! Turns out I missed a few. Thanks for schooling me!!
Paul, today I noticed for the first time that you changed the logo next to the Indigenous Appropriation News. I went back and looked, and it’s maybe the third or fourth time you’ve used this new one. I said something about the old logo a few weeks ago, and I appreciate your willingness to change it. Cheers to you for what I view as personal and intellectual integrity.
Thanks, Kevin — both for your previous feedback and for the kind words today!
The Toronto Maple Leafs helmet ad is for TIK TOK. I can’t think of a worse company to promote.
Did anyone else notice those new Tennessee State uniforms have a classic font and block numbers on the blue version, but more modern fonts on the home whites? The blue version is really nice. The white, not so much.
Yeah, odd design choice.
The Kraken arena sponsor is Amazon, and they’re doing something sortakinda not completely self-serving with the away helmets.
I heard the first Devils sponsor is Pander Express.