Will Adidas deal bring ads to NHL jerseys?

Mark Spector and Gene Principe discuss the playing schedule of Edmonton Oilers rookie sensation Connor McDavid and whether the hit McDavid received from Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen has changed the Oilers plans.

All Day I Dream About Sweater sponsorship.

The NHL announced a seven-year deal with Adidas to take over from Reebok and begin designing its uniforms. The partnership will take effect at the beginning of the 2017-18 season, and financial terms were not revealed.

The greatest assumption among fans is that the NHL will use the new contract as an excuse to splash advertising on your club’s sweater.

Here are eight things we learned from Tuesday’s announcement, made by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, Adidas Group North America president Mark King, and NHLPA executive director Don Fehr.

The league hasn’t even considered putting ads on NHL sweaters… yet
“We are not currently considering putting advertising on NHL jerseys,” Bettman said, answering the biggest issue here. “The history, tradition and respect that goes with NHL sweaters is something we and Adidas are respectful of.”

The commissioner said the assumption that the Adidas deal would open the door for ads on sweaters is false. It’s not an inevitability that we’ll see ads on jerseys, he said, and no discussions formal or informal have been had on that topic.

Yes, the NHL holds the right to slap ads on its uniforms, Bettman said, but it had that right in the previous deal as well.

“We certainly won’t be the first [league],” Bettman went on, echoing his stance on the subject from January. “And you’d have to drag me kicking and screaming.” Meaning it would take a lot, a lot of money.

But that doesn’t mean we won’t see ads on 2016 World Cup sweaters
“What the World Cup does, along with other international events, is give us an opportunity for some experimentation,” Fehr said.

Translation: Expect to see some extra logos on those World Cup get-ups.

Connor McDavid is the first, but he won’t be the last.
Last week Adidas unveiled the Edmonton Oilers rookie as its first NHL brand ambassador. Well, there are more coming. Underlining his commitment to hockey, King says the brand will sign up a couple more “superstars” from the NHL.

The players must approve
If a kicking and screaming Bettman is convinced to stitch additional branding on NHL sweaters, the NHLPA must buy in as well. Of course, such a proposal would enlarge the hockey-related revenue pie they all dine on.

In our small sample of reaction from players, the idea has received mixed reviews.

The NHL could put a dollar figure on jersey ads if it wanted to
“We know what exposure is worth,” says Bettman, acknowledging that the owners he reports to are “always looking for new revenue opportunities.”

If Adidas owns Reebok anyway, why the change?
As King explains, the Adidas Group is positioning Reebok as a fitness-oriented brand while Adidas is the sports brand. Nutty about crossfit? Buy Reebok. Into football? The Three Stripes are right this way, sir. (Adidas also replaced Reebok as the CFL’s outfitter this week.)

The branding switch could actually occur in 2016-17, not 2017-18
Citing reasons too complicated and boring to detail, Bettman said there is a chance the switch from Reebok to Adidas branding could occur next fall instead of 2017. After all, Reebok is Adidas.

“We like staying with the partner we came to the dance with,” Bettman said.

Adidas sees opportunity for change
With his company eager to grow in North America, King is excited to do some “cool things” with the partnership. The new sweaters should introduce new, lighter fabrics that allow for more mobility and flexibility.

“There’s more technology in a jersey than you may think,” King says.

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