Skip to content

Brewery Pretends That Douchey PWHL Uni Ad Is ‘Empowering’

International Women’s Day is this Friday, March 8, and two teams in the Professional Women’s Hockey League — Toronto and Montreal — will be marking that occasion with a new uni ad that the advertiser is trying spin as a gesture of feminist empowerment.

Here’s the deal: As you can see in the photo above, PWHL teams wear their NOBs in the traditional spot, above the numbers. As you can also see, this means players with long hair will sometimes have their NOBs partially obscured. This is a common issue in women’s sports (it’s why WNBA teams put their NOBs below the number), but the PWHL has apparently decided that sticking with the traditional look is more important than the occasional ponytail covering a few letters.

I don’t think there’s any “right” or “wrong” here. As we saw in the recent NHL All-Star Game, even if you put the NOB below the number, it can still get obscured if the lower part of the jersey gets scrunched up or partially tucked in. So I can see good arguments for both approaches.

But a certain Canadian brewery has come up with advertising campaign called “See My Name.” The brewery has purchased the space above the numbers on the Montreal and Toronto jerseys for their game this Friday, with the NOBs moving down below the numbers. The brewery is framing this as noble act of self-sacrifice to advance the righteous causes of women’s sports and gender equality:

Obviously, this is all bullshit. Here are some of the reasons why:

  1. Plenty of PWHL players do not have long hair, so their names will not be any more prominent than they were before. In fact, their NOBs will now be less prominent, because (a) they won’t be in the usual spot where fans are used to looking for them, and (b) they will have to compete with the brewery’s name.
  2. If the PWHL really thinks drop-down NOBs are the best way to enhance player identity, they can just go with that format. They don’t need to sell the spot above the number to an advertiser in order to do it.
  3. If this is really such a great idea, why not do it all the time, instead of just on International Women’s Day? Do NOB visibility and gender equality not matter on all the other days of the year?

I understand that uniform ads aren’t going away, and I also understand that small, upstart leagues need money, and of course I’m all in favor of gender equity. But I would appreciate it if everyone involved could stop insulting our intelligence and just be honest enough to say, “We’re doing this douchey thing, which is purely an act of commerce, because that’s how we do business,” instead of pretending that they’re do-gooders striking a blow for justice.

Comments (30)

    All in all, I think you hit the nail on the head.
    I don’t fully agree with what I’m saying, but is a somewhat magnanimous ad campaign, but one that will bring attention to a great league deserving of more attention, better than nothing at all?
    Sure it’d be better for a company to just promote women’s sports out of the goodness of their hearts, but since we’ll unfortunately be living under capitalism for the foreseeable future, I don’t see that happening.

    It’s almost like a start up league sorely needs revenue, and a local business wants to get involved and support them or something…. You do realize that Public Relations is a thing, right? And that a corporate sponsor promoting women’s sports is good, right?

    It’s almost like a start up league sorely needs revenue…

    It’s almost like I acknowledged that very point in the text but simply asked them not to insult our intelligence by coming up with demonstrably false reasons for what they’re doing.

    You do realize that insulting people’s intelligence with bullshit is bad PR, right?

    You have zero evidence that it’s false. This is all speculation on your end. Don’t insult my intelligence by jumping to conclusions about a sponsors intention. For all you know a woman athlete who works in the marketing dept at Molson came up with this idea. Stop reaching.

    Actually, it is a fact (not speculation) that many PWHL players don’t have long hair and that their NOBs will be less prominent than before. It is also a fact (not speculation) that the league could go to drop-down NOBs without an ad. Why not read what I actually wrote instead of just being argumentative?

    If you’re OK with this ad campaign, that’s fine. I happen to feel differently. Let’s move on. Thanks.

    “For all you know a woman athlete who works in the marketing dept at Molson came up with this idea.”

    This reminded me of one of Norm McDonald’s Weekend Update jokes. I do not want to ruin the punchline. It was clever and offensive, but good comedy will get you thinking and analyze our own biases. For all you know I am a bot.

    Understand where you’re coming from RG, I appreciate Molson sponsoring these leagues that need money, although I do think that it would have been classier to omit the uni-ad and take credit in a more humble way… sometimes the best kind of advertising is none at all.

    I agree with you Paul. This is pandering and trying to gaslight how awesome this benevolent act is. Give the league the money, move the nameplates, go on and sell more beer.

    Why should it matter where the names are – they get married and change their names, or worse yet roll with a hyphenated name when is hard enough to get in on top of the jersey!

    I think another thing you alluded to but didn’t mentioned directly seems to be that the ad ’ initially. So they literally created a problem they had to “solve.” “Our name is covered” well then why have it at all?

    Remember when sports could just be fun and not let any political crap of ANY kind get in the way. Give me the days when Jose Feliciano was controversial. Nice rendition of the Anthem btw especially compared to some today.

    I was today years old when I found out the obvious reason why the WNBA does drop down NOBs.

    As mentioned, this isn’t solving any problems the league couldn’t easily solve for itself basically for free. Which leads one to assume that the advertiser is really just hoping to cash in on goodwill rather than overt promotion of their product. Unfortunately, when they say “our name is covered” my first thought is “who are you?” My second thought is “forget it. I don’t care enough, anyway.” This is also an unintentional dig at the league. It suggests that the league didn’t care to fix this “problem” unless someone was willing to pay them to fix it.

    Well yes, the league could’ve prevented this by having the nameplate at the bottom to begin with so how come they’re not getting any of the hate?

    To answer your question, I don’t know, other than they simply didn’t see it as a problem to begin with. I doubt they would have done top NOBs knowing (or feeling) that it was a problem. BUT, there are of course many ways to think about this. When the SF Giants went noNOB on the home jerseys, their intention was for the fans to trust that the lineup would remain largely the same and largely made up of players that fans would know and love, and thus the hope was that you could easily identify a player by their number, face, or position in the field and batting lineup. In a way it was a sign of mutual respect: “we’ll try to put together a team you can root for, and you can show your allegiance by getting to know our players”. From that perspective NOBs are a moot point, anyway. Just to play devil’s advocate.

    To be fair, if Nike did that today, they would claim that it was to save even more weight when it is undoubted to save (them) more money. (Read: increase then profit.) Shrinking NOB from 2.5 inches to 0 inches. Or maybe they will make everybody’s NOB say “Oatly.”

    Too soon?

    Related aside: As someone who does stats for games, long hair that obscures numbers on the back of jerseys (on either gender, though it’s more common for female athletes) is a problem.

    In what can be a very fast moving job — “layup 14, defensive 22, turnover 22, bad pass, steal 11, three-pointer 33, good, assist 11, fast break, foul visitor 10, shooting, one shot” — having to pause to wait for a long ponytail to sway out of the way to see a number can cause you to potentially lose other things while they’re happening. And no, it’s not always easy to identify athletes based on other things in the moment. Your instinct is to look at numbers because that’s what you do 95 percent of the time.

    In addition to rules about jersey numbers having to be of contrasting colors, many of us involved with sports info or stats-taking would prefer some sort of rule requiring long hair to be worn in such a way — either tied up or inside the jersey — that the front and rear numbers are visible at all times. They don’t serve their purpose if they can’t be seen.

    That being said, yes, this is a self-serving act on the part of the beer company. The truly selfless act would be to just donate the money. This is only going halfway. However, there is also a case to be made for the problem not existing as well.

    I’d suggest that if players (both male and female) think it is incredibly important their NOB be seen and not obscured by their hair, they’ll either tie their hair up so it does not cover it, or even get a haircut. I’ve got no problem with the long hair, but you can’t have it both ways.
    The messaging from this ad gimmick is bad, but what sort of hit me was this importance placed on seeing the player name. As has been noted here countless time, NOB are unnecessary, the numbers are already there to identify the players. Something about the way this is phrased, it hits almost on an ego thing with the NOB, the importance of a player displaying their name, in the era of self-branding, it struck me as players just feeling it incredibly important they get their brand out there with the NOB.

    At first, my only negative on the post is claiming it will be less prominent because it will be in a spot not normally seen, and the beer name will be fighting for eyes – From the image in the advertisement, the brewery name is in white, while the player name is in white with a dark blue outline, and has larger, block lettering – it is clearly visible. Im actually surprised they are not calling more to their brewery name, but anyway.

    Then I actually went to the league’s website and read the league’s press release on the subject:

    This actually seems like this is going to be the way they move forward, and this will be the design in upcoming years. So Im not ready to call this a pitiful stunt, because it seems like they may just be doing this from now on, and while I wouldn’t necessarily want a beer ad on a team that will be partly inspiring youth, all sports advertising is trying to cash in on our emotions tied to sports and sports teams to make us feel something for a brand….

    Dan Pfeifer has it correct. You don’t associate the player to the name on the back without the number. If I say “99” in hockey parlance, everyone thinks of Gretzky. If I say “68”, everyone thinks Jagr. When players are on TV or if you’re watching from the stands, you’re scanning for numbers, not names. I’ll admit that names help sell jerseys, but the number is the key ingredient here.

    You want to sell Natalie Spooner? Make her #24 part of the marketing. Marie-Philip Poulin? #29 should be prominent in the campaign. I’m a fan of Savannah Harmon with the Ottawa team, and I know to look for #15. If you’re a fan of #27 on Minnesota because of what she did on the ice, you know Taylor Heise is #27 after looking up her number.

    I respect those who have said that the PWHL can use this sponsorship money, and I don’t disagree. Where I do disagree is that Molson’s efforts to make this change matter are completely the wrong message to send. You play for the logo on the front, not the name on the back. Every fan has a favorite player, so working to sell the game based on players’ names was never an issue. Fans will look a player up based on jersey number, and then go and research that player via her name once they’ve identified her. Again, to Dan Pfeifer’s point, that’s all based on her jersey number.

    I’ll also add that David T is right – this is how the multi-year agreement will ensure that the names get moved to the bottom for the next few years, but to make this about knowing the players’ names is creating an issue that didn’t exist. If you’re a fan of the game, you already know the names. It’s identifying the jersey number they wear so you can watch them closely that’s the key. The namebars are largely irrelevant in a game that moves as fast as hockey.

    “If you’re a fan of the game, you already know the names.”

    Not necessarily.

    In a world when you can watch any NHL game, you probably know who 87 and 71 are when you watch the Penguins, but 48 and 20 aren’t so obvious. And for teams you don’t see much of, even the better-known players may be problematic. Readable NOBs help.

    Except you’ll likely look online to find out who those players are long before the camera zooms in enough. Again, let’s be honest with the topic here: the numbers matter far more than the players’ names do when it comes to identifying them.

    Not cool.
    ” I don’t think there is any right or wrong here.”
    Translation: Let me cover my ass.
    “This is bullshit. Here are the reasons why”
    Translation: You DO think they are wrong.
    You posted a whole article about why you thought it was wrong.
    And there is nothing wrong with that if that’s how you feel.

    Actually, you are conflating two different things.

    I don’t think there’s any right or wrong, in the abstract, regarding whether an NOB should be above or below the number for women’s sports.

    But the PWHL situation is not in the abstract — it’s a very specific set of circumstances. And it turns out that I *do* think there’s something wrong with moving the NOB as an excuse for an ad campaign and pretending that you’re striking a blow for gender equality, especially when, as I spelled out, the ad will actually make the NOBs *less* prominent for players with short hair.

    Apples and oranges.

    If you go back and re-read what I actually wrote, you’ll see that there’s no inconsistency.

    I love the way the PWHL names are being celebrated (cool move)…but for “branding”
    … and the oat milk minor league players will have theirs “uncelebrated” (still cool)…but still for “branding”
    Marketing logic, for sure

Comments are closed.