By Morris Levin
Corporate advertising on game jerseys is an active discussion on this site. Paul and others explored rationales against advertising in April 2012. Paul covered the July 2012 announcement of the NBA’s intention to begin jersey advertising.
Advocating for NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB game uniforms to remain advertising free, Paul wrote on Page 2 on espn.com, “the fan still roots for that uniform, no matter who’s wearing it. That’s a unique bond — one that shouldn’t be cheapened or sullied by the presence of an ad patch for a credit card.” Teams are civic institutions as much as they are private enterprise.
Caleb Borchers explained on this site his theory that Europeans accept game jersey advertising because European uniforms historically had minimal decoration. “American fans don’t like uni ads largely because there is no space for them! International teams had more visual space for an ad than we did, so it was easier to accept them. ” That is, no traditional uniform elements were displaced.
Owners want uniform advertising because more money is better than less money. Uni-Watch has generally staked out positions opposed to jersey ads with healthy debate in the comments.
I was curious to hear the perspective of a player so I turned to Craig Ferguson who I first came to know in a graduate school sports business class. Craig is both mindful of the appeal presented by new revenue sources to owners and players, and also a fan of the game who appreciates and respects its history.
Craig played professionally from 1992 to 2006 in the ECHL, AHL, IHL, NHL, Swiss-A, and Deutsche Eishockey Liga. He wore a Canadiens sweater – one of the most iconic of North American jerseys. He also skated in Europe with Fribourg-Gottéron in Switzerland and Ingolstadt in Germany. He wore his fair share of jersey advertising.
I am specifically interested in the different sports cultures and construction of team allegiance between the United States and Europe. Last year on this site, I wrote about the 1973 introduction of jersey advertising in European football and posited the difference to be existential. American fans may always lose their team to relocation through the franchise system and absence of relegation. The league bestoweth and the league taketh.
European teams and their fan bases commit to long-term relationships. This engenders greater community identity and investment. This ownership, coupled with relegation, removes pressure from the uniform to define the team identity. Teams just about never move (unless you are FC Wimbledon).
Craig found European fans passionate about hockey, and the team active in their community. Professional teams in Europe develop the minor league players in the area. In Fribourg, the team ran the minor hockey program with assistance from the professional players who developed the young players to one-day play at the professional level in Fribourg. Players on his teams in both Fribourg and Inglostadt made themselves very accessible to fans through team sponsored social opportunities, and fans were respectful in kind.
There is no entry player draft? Suppose one of the top 22-year old players in Major League Baseball was from Vineland, New Jersey. There is a good chance he would be playing in Philadelphia today rather than Anaheim.
Craig comes by his appreciation for classic uniforms honestly. He grew up following the Canadiens, with weekend trips to Montreal with his dad to for games at the Forum. The Canadiens drafted Craig and he spent the first three years of his professional career with the organization.
While Montreal is known by fans to be steeped in tradition, Craig found an organization that actively cultivated reverence for this legacy in its players – those in Montreal as well as those at its minor league affiliates. The card at the bottom right is Canadiens-affiliate Craig in Fredericton.
Canadiens players were taught on the first day of training camp that the jersey, both practice and game, were to be handled in a respectful manner. This meant that players hung up their jersey at the end of games or practices. It was never to be discarded on the floor of the dressing room at any time.
Craig’s professional took him to teams in Switzerland and Germany.
He understood there are differences in European hockey cluture. Advertising on his jersey was one difference that came to be part of the background, and much easier to which to adapting than the larger ice surface. Most critically, player salaries in Europe were largely dependent on sponsorship revenue, incentivizing ownership and player support for the practice.
Craig shared images from his years with ERC Inglostadt. The Panthers wear navy and light blue. This is Craig wearing the club jersey with the skyline of the town of Inglostadt imprinted with team sponsors. The assistant captain A and manufacturer swoosh are nearly lost in the front clutter. The Christmas version had Santa Clause in his sleigh above the same skyline.
The playoffs brought a change from blue to a black and red color scheme, inconsistent with the jerseys worn during the regular season. Note the 2005 playoff year on the sleeve.
This is the 2004 playoff uniform in gray with year on the front. After each home game, the team would line up, music would play, the players would dance, salute the home crowd and thank them for their support.
As a player in general, and foreign player in Europe, Craig was struck by the civic community support for the club and found the sponsors to be part of this community. Sponsors did not offer perks or cash bonuses, but as organizations, the sponsors invested themselves in the players and the player families being made to feel integrated into the community.
There are fewer longer team histories in North American than Europe, driven by multiple factors, chief among which I identify to be the potential for the existential crisis in franchise relocation. The absence of this and other reminders of the temporarily of this relationship, engenders a deeper fan engagement able to transcend the use of the jersey as commercial display space.
Morris Levin began work at Mitchell & Ness Nostalgia Co. in 1993. He left the company for business school in 2006 and is now the proprietor of Elysian Fields Baseball, LLC, a small business consulting practice in Philadelphia. He recognizes that some folks love corporations!
And now a few words from Paul…
Just a reminder that the second annual Uni Watch Power Rankings will roll out on Monday over on ESPN (we’ll have a link here on the blog, natch). Remember, there’s a format change this time around: Last year we ranked the 122 Big Four uniform sets by going worst to first over the course of five days. This time we’re ranking each league’s uniforms one day at a time — MLB on Monday, NBA on Tuesday, NFL on Wednesday, NHL on Thursday (yes, that’s a different sequence that I originally announced two weeks ago) — and then presenting the intermixed 122-team chart on Friday. It should spur lots of fun discussion.
I’ll also have big ESPN columns in the two weeks after the Power Rankings:
• My annual college football season preview will run on ESPN on Aug. 27 and 28. (It’s going to be pretty damn long, so my editors have decided to split it up into two pieces.)
• My annual NFL season preview will run on Sept. 3 — the day after Labor Day.
That’s it for now. My continued thanks to Phil and his contributors for giving me a break from the blog and giving me the time and space to concentrate on these big projects.
Don’t Forget The Motor City…
“We are pleased to unveil our new Motor City uniforms and display our pride in the metro Detroit community,” Pistons CEO Dennis Mannion said in a statement. “When you say Motor City – no matter where you are in the world – everyone knows you are talking about Detroit. We are proud to represent Detroit and hope these uniforms will serve as a source of pride for our fans and this region.”
They’re expected to wear this set 10 times during the 2013-14 season, and will debut them on Sunday, November third, against the Celtics in Detorit. According to reports, the Pistons will then wear the jerseys on eight other Sunday games plus a Friday, November 29th home game against the Lakers.
It’s not terrible, but it’s just kind of “there” in my opinion. Also, since it’s a dark blue (navy), it can probably be worn on the road as well as at home, so it’s utilitarian. But lord knows, the NBA needs another navy uniform, right? Finally, there’s this from the Pistons’ press release:
The navy blue and red uniforms feature “Motor City” across the front and mark the club’s first alternative look since the 2005-06 NBA season. The uniforms are the first of their kind, designed to celebrate the pride and character of metro Detroit while paying homage to the region’s automotive roots.
The Pistons worked in consultation with adidas and the NBA in development of the uniforms. Lettering and numbering style on the jersey is consistent with the team’s current home and away uniforms. To contrast the navy blue and red accents, lettering and numbers on the jerseys and shorts are white with hair-line red and blue trim. The club’s secondary logo appears on the shorts – similar to the primary home and away uniforms.
I have no problem with them wanting a third uniform (and the $$$ it will bring in), but I’ve never been keen on teams using City nicknames, airport abbreviations or shortened names on jerseys, but it is what it is. And certainly “Motor City” is unquestionably tied to Detroit.
NCAAFB Uniform News & Updates
This will be a semi-recurring column on Uni Watch and will appear whenever there is any news or updates on the College Football uniform front.
If you have ANY new NCAAFB news, follow and tweet me at @PhilHecken (and you’ll get your tweet in lights on here). You can also e-mail me (Phil (dot) Hecken (at) Gmail (dot) com) or send/cc: Paul to the following address: NewCollegeUni (at) Gmail (dot) com. OK? OK! (for any image, click to enlarge):
• Marist College Red Foxes (home uniforms):
“Here’s something new from our football team. These are our new home jerseys for the 2013 season To compare, these are the home jerseys from the 2012 season. Our road jersey remains the same.” (Thanks to Geoffrey J. Magliocchetti)
• Notre Dame Fightin’ Irish (blue jersey):
Not a huge “reveal” here, but the blue jerseys will have the adidas trademark treadmarks and the words “Fightin’ Irish” will be on the inside of the collars.
• University of Tennessee Volunteers:
Though I had thought we’d seen the uniforms already (certainly we’ve seen pictures), the official unveiling is today. So UT put out a video to tease the reveal. We haven’t seen the white jersey (as far as I know) and I’m hearing there may be a third jersey/uniform, so at least we will see something we haven’t yet seen. (h/t to Chad Fields @CfieldsVFL)
• Eastern Washington Eagles:
The school with that awful red turf has gotten some new red uniforms to go with it (they were red before, but now they’re still red). According to this article, the unis are “red hot.” They’re also the new techno-fit adidas, so it’s safe to assume they’ll have the trademark treadmarks.
That’s it for the college uni news for today. Keep the tips coming folks!
Uni Watch News Ticker: Jim Harbaugh is still wearing Reebok, notes Brinke — see sleeve in video. … Couple of beauts here: Reader Brandon Hall wanted to submit a couple of prints he did some years back. Explains Brandon, “I’m a graphic designer and a big Buffalo Bills fan, so when the AFL and the Bills celebrated their 50th Anniversary I was inspired to make these for myself. I’m finally getting them up on the web and thought I would share with you and your readers in case anyone was interested checking them out.” … Here’s a link to an article where reader Matt Williams’ local CHL hockey team, the Arizona Sundogs, will have alternate jerseys commemorating the 19 Prescott firefighters lost. As a side note, Sundogs play in the arena where the memorial service was held. … There is going to be a Manny Machado Garden Gnome Giveaway (thanks to Andrew Hoenig). Read more here and here. Says Andrew, “The Bowie Baysox are an Orioles AA club. And, for the record, that is pronounced ‘BOO-ee’.” … Interesting article forwarded by George Chilvers notes that following a sponsorship deal with bookmakers Paddy Power, the Farnborough squad and their coaching staff have legally changed their names to that of a legendary footballer in their respective positions. … The MMQB post notes Merton Hanks is the NFL’s point person for the mandate requiring players to wear knee and thigh pads in 2013 (thanks to Tommy Turner). … “Saw this yesterday from Mike Luckovich of the Atlanta Constitution Journal,” says Brian Mazmanian. “Then wondered if he’d ever taken this stance with his hometown Braves, and came across this less than sensitive take. BTW, not sure why she’s picking her nose.” … Janssen McCormick wrote a semi-lengthy review of the Southampton Saints’ first season with Adidas after several years with Umbro as their supplier, and “like most Adidas kits the new ones are boring template jobs. From 1999-2008 Southampton were an anomaly in modern football as they produced their own kits under the Saints Sportswear label, that’s how small market Saints were at the time. However it’s a huge disappointment that the Adidas kit continues the switch to solid red that began with last year’s kit, Southampton have worn red and white stripes since 1896 (1985-87 being an exception) and those stripes have been paired with black shorts since 1950.” … As you are probably aware, last Yahoo! announced it would have a new logo, and now designers are imagining Yahoo!’s new logo for them (thanks, Brinke). … Question time: “How many swooshes are visible on Allen Robinson in this photo?” asks David Long. … Interesting article from Forbes, “Questions Concerning Copyright Of Athlete Tattoos Has Companies Scrambling” (thanks to Tom Turner). … Good spot from Matt Ryburn who saw this Brooklyn jersey on the SNY broadcast of Tuesday night’s Mets vs Dodgers game. He notes the Dodgers have a display showing items from the Brooklyn period. Interesting jersey with the “O” being split for the placket. … Good find from TommyTheCPA of this article in which the NFL thinks some face masks encourage players to lead with their heads. … Nice minimalist NHL logos (good find, Brinke). I’m pretty sure we’ve seen those before, but it never hurts to see them again. … The Suns will be unveiling their new duds later today, so here is a slide-show of Suns concept jersey’s from when they re-designed in the early 90’s (from Matthew Gunderson). … A few today from Sully (@pal3327): Here’s the new new baselayer for Texas A&M (looks like the ends of the sleeves are sublimated); This is what the AHL Bruins will be wearing at the Dunk this year; here is the 2013 Mingo Central Miners (High School) Football Helmet;, and, here are matte black lids (with an unusual stripe) for Dunedin HS in Florida. … Real nice game day program cover for Baylor vs. Oregon State, on a calendar in Alex Allen (@aallen65)’s boss’s office. … Jamison Nash came across this great Bleed Cubbie Blue article about giveaway hats from Opening Night at Wrigley Field. … Check out this gorgeous 50th Anniversary Logo patch for the NY Yanks (h/t Todd Radom).
Phew! That’s going to do it for today — if you were wondering, the reason Morris Levin has the lede (instead of the usual Friday), it’s because the Suns are going to be unveiling their new duds this evening, so tomorrow’s main article will more than likely be a recap of those uniforms.
Big thanks to Morris and all the contributors, and good to hear from Paul — looking forward to next week’s ESPN uni rankings, as I’m sure you guys are as well.
Everyone have a great Thursday, and I’ll be back tomorrow with much, much more.
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHecken
“The NFL banning the custom facemasks is just stupid. I mean, sure some of those masks look a bit, well, silly, but they also look really hard to actually grab onto — resulting in less facemasking penalties. Wouldn’t that be a GOOD thing, NFL?”
–THE Jeff Provo