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Seven, Shmeven: Bruins Piss on Espo’s Retired Number With New Uni Ad

The Bruins retired Phil Esposito’s number nearly 35 years ago, on Dec. 3, 1987, ensuring that no Bruin would ever again wear No. 7.

Wait, check that — it turns out that every Bruin will wear No. 7 this season, thanks to the team selling ad space on its jersey to a cybersecurity firm called Rapid7. It’s the latest example of how uni advertising ruins, well, everything.

There are lots of company and brand names that include numbers, of course — 3M, Forever21, Six Flags, Four Seasons, WD40, and so on. But have we ever seen one of them become a uni advertiser in a way that conflicts with a team’s retired number? Hmmmmm.

The Bruins are the 11th NHL team to announce a uniform advertiser for the coming season. The other 10 teams to have done so are the Blue Jackets, Blues, CanadiensCapitalsCoyotesGolden KnightsJetsMaple Leafs, Penguins, and Wild. A league exec has said that he expects about half of the league’s 32 teams to go with uni ads this season.

(My thanks to @YAMANSDOOD for pointing out the Espo conflict to me.)

Comments (63)

    On that day when #7 was retired for Phil Esposito, Raymond Bourque gifted his #7 to the rafters and took #77. This new ad must feel like getting your gift regifted back to you in a workplace White Elephant exchange. What a shame.

    Something about the accompanying photo sort of struck me. I wonder if all of these teams selling uni ads then become contractually obligated to show off said ad in a press release.
    It strikes me as odd, because it is hard to imagine anyone actually being pro-ad. I am sure there are plenty of folks who are indifferent, but who is actually like “yeah man, my team is advertising company X on their uniforms, can’t wait to see how it looks.”? My guess is nobody. So ultimately any press release on a uni ad is de facto bad press for the team. If you sell out with and an ad at the expense of bad press, wouldn’t you minimalize that as much as possible? Maybe you have to do a release as part of the deal, but it comes off even worse showing players modeling the new ad-infected uniform as if it is a point of pride.

    “it is hard to imagine anyone actually being pro-ad”

    I’m definitely not “pro-ad” in the sense that I totally agree that ads on uniforms are annoying and really compromise if not ruin a team’s apperance…but I will say that the pearl-clutching here about them is often over the top. There seems to be a general attitude that there is something morally or ethically wrong about a pro sports team having them but it’s never clear exactly who is harmed by this beyond perhaps annoyance. If ads “ruin everything” in sports, fans would stop watching them and there’s no reason to think that’s happening.

    In this case, the fact that the sponsor happens to have a “7” in its name is simply coincidence, no reasonable person would believe that it’s an effort to insult a former player whose number 7 was retired.

    There seems to be a general attitude that there is something morally or ethically wrong about a pro sports team having them but it’s never clear exactly who is harmed by this beyond perhaps annoyance.

    Actually, I have spelled out literally dozens of times that the increasing encroachment of advertising into every nook and cranny of our society — including but not limited to sports uniforms — is a social and cultural ill.

    You can disagree with the case that I and others have presented. But please don’t pretend that no such case has been made. (And I’d appreciate it if you didn’t use sexist insults like “pearl-clutching.” Thanks.)


    FIrst off, I don’t think that “pearl-clutching” is a sexist insult, it’s certainly not defined that way by several sources I checked, but I’ll respect your request not to use it again.

    Second, I have read at least one or two of your takes on the encroachment of advertising on other aspects of civic life, and it’s one of those things that I kind of agree with you in the sense that I’d prefer to see less advertising in general. And like you, I really don’t like seeing corporate names on publicly-funded stadiums and arenas.

    But in this case, I’m wondering about the actual harm done specifically in major league teams adding ads to their uniforms. You seem to often take it beyond “this looks bad, and annoys me” to a critcism that sounds more like “this is morally and ethically wrong” which I just don’t see.

    I don’t think that “pearl-clutching” is a sexist insult

    Who clutches pearls? Women of insufficient intestinal fortitude. So when you accuse someone of “pearl-clutching,” you’re basically calling them a weak girl. It’s sexist just like “Don’t get your panties in a twist” is sexist — they frame feminine tropes in a negative context, and they have no male analogs. Think about it.

    As for uni ads, it sounds like we agree in principle but maybe not around the margins. I’m fine with that.

    Paul, if you’re worried about sexism, you really ought to revisit the service pushing your ads here because some of them aren’t subtle. The last two have featured women with giant breasts selling, actually, apparently nothing? I can’t tell.

    “…Actually, I have spelled out literally dozens of times that the increasing encroachment of advertising into every nook and cranny of our society…”

    I don’t know if it’s a thing in NYC or other areas, but in Orlando the radio station studios (or at least one) has sold naming rights to their studio. A few times an hour they announce “broadcasting live from the [law office name] studios”. I understand advertising but like you say, every last nook and cranny.

    @Nick – the ads on this site are highly targeted, so your own browser history is why you are getting these ads. For me, I see ads for Hamilton in DC tickets (near where I live/work) and a Florsheim shoe ad (I was shoe shopping online yesterday.

    Just FYI.

    I’m getting an ad for some gross military themed clothing company with some guy holding an assault rifle and wearing a tshirt that spells out DILF in the NATO phonetic alphabet, so I seriously doubt they’re highly targeted.

    For some reason I don’t seem to be able to respond directly to the comments in question, but for anyone who is concerned about the ads they’re seeing – whether they’re targeted or not – that’s one good reason to subscribe to UniWatch+. My feed is completely ad-free.

    (Does this count as an ad for UniWatch+?)

    Paul has sort of already addressed it, specifically the issue with encroaching ads. But to your point about uni ads specifically “ruining” sports. No obviously they have existed in European Soccer for years and they seem to be doing just fine. But to my point specifically about them doing a press release where they actually show the ad, it certainly isn’t something that people like to see, whether it ruins the sport or not. So it just strikes me as odd the teams actively promote images of their now corporate sponsored uniforms which are not favorably viewed. Imagine a politician putting out a press release that they just got a $1 mil donation from a pharm company, it is bad optics.
    For us in the uni-verse, who do take specific enjoyment on the visual elements good uniforms bring to the table, I would say that yes, uni ads do detract from part of the enjoyment of the game, much in the same way an awful uniform that we gripe about would. For instance, even if Packers/Bears is clunker of a game, there is some simple visual enjoyment in the beauty of those uniforms, whereas a great Falcons/Cardinals game is just going to be unsettling to the eyes.

    I think there is some number of fans who support uniform ads as additional revenue. I do not understand why that support doesn’t come with a noticeable increase in pressure to sign dudes/fill needs. What’s more, I’ve read posts from soccer people complaining about their club not having a sponsor or wanting a different sponsor.

    Besides looking uggo, sports fans suspend our disbelief—root for laundry, bleed the team’s colors, god’s a fan because of sunsets, civic pride, etc, etc. Ads are an overt reminder that your team is primarily a business owned by rich assholes.

    longtime reader, very infrequent poster…

    I agree with My Lawn’s comment, it seems a bit precious to be upset about using a sponsor logo that contains a number that’s retired for a player. No other player will wear that number in a game. isn’t that honor enough? That’s my opinion, it’s fine if you don’t agree but please don’t take offense that I disagree with you.

    I hate uni ads as much as anyone, especially on my beloved Bruins uni. Is it off limits to say that I appreciate that this ad is less intrusive than some others I’ve seen? We’ll see if it remains that way, but white text on a black background in this layout is about the best case I could hope for.

    In Europe, sometimes fan bases will be upset if their uniforms do not have the maximum advertisements allowed because that is revenue that could be spent on the team that is then lost. I also recall some instances of advertisements being a sort of status symbol that prove that the team is important in some places as well.

    But given the choice of a clean uniform and a big budget or a shirt full of ads and still not being able to buy stars most Euro soccer fans wil choose the first option. The peolpe who see ads as a sign of being taken seriously as a pro team are still a minority. Unsettling is that most Euro soccer fans do not care at all about uniform ads or stadium naming rights: witness what happened at FC Barcelona who previously had a clean shirt (except for the UNICEF logo) and a stadium with a name not incorporating a music streaming service. Everybody was upset for 5 minutes and moved on, sadly enough.

    FWIW, I was an advertising/marketing major (but never worked in those fields) and from what I was taught the idea behind ads that simply feature a company logo or name is not that somebody is going to see them and instantly run out and buy their product/service, but rather to “build a brand identity” that sticks in people’s minds so when they do find themselves in need of a certain product/service, your company will come to mind as a possibility.

    Agreed. It’s not about rushing out to make a purchase; it’s about establishing a certain level of status and legitimacy in the consumer mindset.

    Like those BASF “we don’t make the products you buy; we make the products you buy better” ads from many years ago.

    Curious to what extent ads create a negative association. In this is example, if people are annoyed about uni ads, and then say they are shopping for a phone, might they be less inclined to buy a Motorola because they are annoyed by the company’s uni ads? Is there any research or school of thought about this in marketing classes?

    I have worked mostly in television and now do marketing in a completely different industry but both are heavy on brand, logo and awareness of said items.

    The basic answer is yes some people will be turned off by the ad being in a particular location but if it’s a small percentage (which in most cases it would be) then the benefits (brand recognition, elevated status) outweighs the drawbacks.

    I do not like advertising as a general rule but do appreciate good branding. The problem for these sports teams is that their product (people coming or watching their team) is sold to advertisers but when you get to the actual uniform they are damaging their own brand recognition by having ads on the uniforms. Uniforms now already have team logo, league logo and makers mark on them so adding an ad patch you now have 4 things in direct competition with the other.

    This creates a problem for new consumers of your product. Fans predominantly cheer for their teams above all else. I am a Boston area fan and I cheer for the Red Sox, Bruins, Celtics and Patriots. I do not care who the players are, I do not care who the owners are and I don’t care who the coaches are. I want to watch competitive teams with good looking uniforms that show off my team.

    So added messages, logos and ads that detract from my team is a bad idea.

    Yeah I assume these ads are more for building brand awareness, and boosting legitimacy (for emerging companies)

    I agree. I am from Indianapolis and listen to Colt’s games on the radio. The Colts, obviously, have an official sponsor for everything. I go out of my way to avoid doing business with any of their sponsors. And I’m a big fan of the Colts!

    I’m normally all about being bothered by stuff like this, but saying that this is an insult to the retired #7 would also say it’s an insult to have anyone wear jersey numbers 17, 27, 37 … or any number that begins with 7. Ignoring the fact that jersey ads suck in general, this ad is much less of an insult to the retired #7 than use of those numbers.

    Agreed. The whole ads on NHL sweaters makes me sick, but I was really confused by the headline. That is, until I squinted to see that there was, in fact, a numeral on the ad.

    This is taking it to the extreme that everyone on the team will be “wearing number 7”. In fact, so many times on this site it’s mentioned about big douchebag companies going after a little guy because somebody might confuse the little guy for the big company. Feels the same way, like is anyone going to be confused that hey, is that Phil Esposito? Of course not. But to be like “hey they’re wearing number 7” is a very far reach. Like 3M was mentioned in the article. When 3M goes to sponsor a NASCAR car, is everyone going to be like “Hey that’s Dale’s number” (even though 3 has gone back into circulation.)

    That’s a reasonable point of view. Here’s another:

    – They could have chosen literally any company other than one whose name includes a retired number.

    – If they absolutely HAD to choose this company, they could have mentioned in their press release that 7 is an important numeral in Bruins history, just as a way of acknowledging that the situation is, you know, a bit awkward.

    Or they could do neither because all that matters is slapping a uni ad on there and cashing the check.

    So if the Bruins referenced the historical significance of number 7 in the press release, you wouldn’t accuse them of “storytelling BS” or reaching? Seems unlikely.

    It depends on how they framed it. If they said, “And of course, Rapid7 is a perfect choice for our inaugural jersey patch partner, because 7 is an important number in Bruins history,” then yeah, I’d call bullshit on that.

    But if they said, “We’re sensitive to the fact that 7 is an important number to Bruins fans and to our team’s history, so we asked Phil Esposito about this and he gave his blessing,” then that would be nice. Don’t you think?

    Instead of trying to make this about *me*, try making it about the Bruins.

    Now that that you mention it, when Kevin Harvick became the driver after Earnhardt’s death and the RCR #3 was ‘retired’ (re-number to #29, though the team continued to pay NASCAR for the number’s rights), there were 3M stickers on the car since they were a Series-wide advertiser and the team probably had little/no choice in the matter.
    I don’t recall that was viewed as disrespectful by fans, but still…plus Harvick’s cars always(?) carried a ‘Earnhardt’ 3 memorial decal.

    Also Greg Biffle’s #16 often featured said advertiser’s logo during the #3’s ‘retirement’…again, I don’t remember any backlash from Earnhardt supporters.

    Count me among those who agree with Paul, that “the increasing encroachment of advertising into every nook and cranny of our society — including but not limited to sports uniforms — is a social and cultural ill.” I don’t wish to wade into that debate right now, and I see that Paul and My Lawn have discussed their differences above. I’d like to point out the risk of harm to children who look up to athletes and admire their uniforms as we all did when we were young. It’s sad that they get the message that one more thing is just not sacred enough to be free of marketing. And in the case of three teams (so far), impressionable kids are getting one more very powerful message (along with others now encroaching into arenas and broadcasts) that gambling is cool and a good thing. Capitals advertise Caesars Sportsbook, Coyotes advertise Gila River Resorts and Casinos, and Golden Knights advertise Circa Sports.

    I understand that I stand firmly on the opposite of the fence from UW staff and many community members on the uniform ad debate, but this seems like a huge stretch. A number being *on* a jersey is not the same as a player wearing that jersey number.

    “No (team name) player will ever wear the number (retired number) ever again” is commonly stated at number retirement ceremonies. They don’t say “The number (retired number) will never again appear on a (team) jersey,

    Dr. J’s number 6 is retired by the 76ers. Are they disrespecting him by having the number 6 in their team logo or the word SIX(ERS) printed on their uniforms?

    I was speaking with an Ontario dairy farmers representative yesterday and he specifically brought up the milk as patch on the Maple leafs jerseys and was very proud of it.
    We both agreed that ads on jerseys look like crap.

    How about the “3” logo on all of the Chelsea jerseys. I just find it wildly confusing since every player is #3 with an awful font.

    Let me preface this by stating that I am not a soccer fan and admit that the #3 font is hideous and confusing but I kind of like that jersey because it approximates what I think a sports uniform should look like — team name and/or number on the front instead of a big honking billboard, even though it is a big honking billboard.

    I’ve always thought that advertising that contains words and numbers is far worse than abstract shapes or logos, with Chelsea’s giant number being the absolute worst. It’s bad enough when an advertiser’s name is bigger than the team’s name; with that team we have an advertising number that’s bigger than the player’s number on his shorts.

    I share Paul’s general distaste for sullying uniforms with advertisements, but I think the presence of a “7” in this one is a non-issue.

    Case in point: in 2011 the Angels wore a shoulder patch celebrating their 50th year in MLB. The patch had a very large “50”–considerably larger than the “7” on this ad. link

    The Angels had, in fact, retired the number 50 for longtime coach Jimmy Reese. I doubt this is the only case of a retired number appearing on such a patch. Did anyone complain? Well, please show me if someone did, but I suspect not, because it’s obviously not being used as a uniform number. “7” isn’t as likely to be used in an anniversary patch, but the principle is the same, and if it appeared on a patch for some other reason (in the name of a charity, perhaps, or if it were commemorating 7 victims of some tragic event), I don’t think anyone would have said word one.

    In short, I don’t see how this is any more disrespectful to Esposito than it is to any other player who wore the Bruins’ sweater.

    Anniversary patch is a great point that I hadn’t thought of.

    Now, an anniversary patch isn’t worn as the result of a greed-based business transaction, and there’s no substitute for the number 50 on your 50th anniversary (while there are literally limitless other companies you could choose as your uni advertiser), so I don’t think it’s *quite* an apples:apples comparison. But it’s close enough — your point is well taken, Brett. Thanks for thinking of something I should have thought of myself!

    If you want to know how pervasive advertising has become, before every volleyball match this past week (Freshmen, JV, and Varsity) at my high school, the following announcement was made:

    “State Farm reminds spectators and fans to respect our student athletes and to follow the values of good sportsmanship. Good sportsmanship makes good neighbors, and like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.”

    I saw one that went out to season ticket holders that offered to add the ad patch “free of charge.” But, the jersey had to be a male (No female of children) authentic (no replicas or knock-offs) sweater. So, those of you lucky enough to pay several hundred dollars for a shirt that you can pretty much only wear to hockey games – good news – you don’t have TO PAY to help advertise some company. One that I’ve never even close to have heard of prior to yesterday.

    There was a post on Reddit about how you could take an Authentic jersey to the team store and get an ad patch put on for a $20 donation to the team’s charity. The Bruins literally want to you pay to advertise for their sponsor, but do it under the guise of “it’s cool! The money goes to charity!” Honestly, that’s more offensive than the name of the company.

    I’m not 100% positive but I’m pretty sure that on top of what you point out, the Bruins can then include that $20 you gave them as their own charitable contribution when doing taxes/financials.

    From an accounting perspective – If they did use it as a charitable donation on their taxes, they’d have to include the income from your donation as well, so it would cancel itself out.

    It was my understanding the NHL was just going to sell authentic jerseys without advertising. I’m a Ranger fan and I hate the Bruins with the heat of a thousand suns for this kind of blatant fuckery.

    Well, maybe we should abandon all hope and switch fully to the dark side: name a team after a sponsor, plaster the uniforms, hats, helmets and shoes with as many sponsors as possible, sponsors not only for stadium names but for stadium sections as well, allow players to change their names to include sponsors as well. Have games, halftimes, quarters or periods or innings sponsored as well and cover the playing field, ice or hardwood with as many brands as possible. I forget temporary tattoos (or permanent ones, who cares) with brand logos for players, coaches and officials as well. This fourth down, final out or last ten seconds have been made possible by…(fill in the blanks). My bet is most of us will still watch the games.

    A former teammate of mine and I have helped out with our alma mater’s lacrosse club with game day tasks, timing, score keeping, field set up and so on. For our support, the club gave us both a really nice team hoodie. My friend proceeded to take the maker’s mark off of his sweatshirt, leaving a scraggily hole where the small 1” long swoosh was embroidered. I still shake my head that the distaste for an advertisement or branding of a garment can be so high as to ruin a gift of appreciation like that. After reading this thread of comments, I guess he’s not alone.

    Every inch of my Uniwatch page is littered with ads from my browser history and folks are complaining about ads on jerseys. Not sure anyone like ads, but this seems a little disingenuous. Paul takes ads to supplement the cost of doing business so do the teams. Hey kettle…

    By that logic, isn’t the answer to not liking ad patches ‘then pay the organization enough to not sell the ad spot to somebody else’?

    My thoughts exactly. Perhaps we can get a UW+ patch on one of these jerseys seeing as Paul has sold out.

    I am not too concerned here, but I could see where a die hard fan (probably an old timer who remembers when players were so closely associated with one team for a career and beyond) would feel that certain sponsor names come too close to some sacred reference in a teams history to appear on a jersey. Number 7 is certainly one for the Bruins (and probably why the company thought it was such a great idea to associate their name with the Bruins).

    I imagine 23andme should be approaching the Bulls any day now.

    Number 42 is another to me that would fall into that category.

    I think there might be other third rails in sport too. I cant imagine Hill Bros. Coffee (much less any company that would be reminiscent of Hillsborough Disaster) appearing on a Liverpool FC kit.

    That said, the advertising horse has left the barn. And no one cares more about the Bruins brand than the Bruins organization. If they don’t care, why should we?

    I totally agree with Paul Lucas on the Bruins destroying the jersey by adding advertising. As a longtime season ticket holder and a fan for over 50 years Bruins management has always preached about the importance of the team jersey. Cam Neely said the jersey was “sacred space “. Suddenly it is not so sacred. This is not really surprising. The Jacobs brothers have owned this team for 47 years and they have won a total of ONE Stanley Cup . Bruins fans have always perceived the Jacobs brothers number one concern being the bottom line not winning the Stanley Cup. Case in point they haven’t signed the best goal scorer they have had in decades but they have a uniform ad. Talk about priorities. The team that takes the long term view of keeping advertising off the uniform will be looked at as a classy organization that truly knows the word integrity. Being held in this regard is worth more to a team long term while making you stick out among the crowd.

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