Image credit: Toronto Maple Leafs

Never say never.

Reports claim that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman once proclaimed the league would never allow brands to have logo patches on team jerseys, but a pandemic can change many things. (For the record, I keep changing many pre-pandemic “nevers,” a dozen and counting as of this writing, so I empathize with the commish.)

Recently we have seen a flood of new deals as the league’s marketers shrewdly capitalize on the opportunity that the NBA started in 2017 and futbol began in 1817 (or so it seems). So the move by the NHL seemed to me like a natural, and probably more lucrative, by-product of their helmet logo test. 

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So today, we have a flurry of deals. Canada Life on the Jets jersey. Gila River Resorts on the Arizona Coyotes uni. Dairy Farmers of Ontario on the Maple Leafs jersey. Rapid7 on the Bruins jersey. RBC with the Habs. 

I have some questions for our community:

  1. Do you like the jersey patches?
  2. Do you think it was long overdue?
  3. Is the commercial value there?
  4. Which team and brand is the best fit?
  5. Which team and brand are the worst fit?
  6. How about some predictions on nicknames and memes that may result?
  7. How best should these new partners leverage this affiliation?
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I am old enough to remember when the rink boards and ice were clean and brandless, and thinking how odd it was when I saw European hockey, and they had ads on the boards and helmets on every player. Yep, that is a Black & White memory; due to its age, we didn’t have a colour TV at that point. But given the history of marketing soccer (sorry, Imran) teams in Europe with logos and third jersey concepts long before North America, it made sense that their hockey teams followed suit.

So first the NBA, now the NHL. Will MLB follow suit? The NFL? (I suspect not for the latter, given their TV contracts.) But the sports marketing world is shifting beneath our feet daily with NIL, Web3, crypto, NFTs, and sports betting. So is it no wonder those changes are now front and center for the fastest sport on earth?