November 30th, 2005
More Ads on US Sports Uniforms on the Way
Professional U.S. sports teams ultimately will have to bow to increased sponsorship on their uniforms and playing surfaces, following the lead of European soccer, a leading sports executive said on Thursday.
"I think it’s probably inevitable," said Robert Kain, vice chairman of sports agency IMG, which represents superstar athletes like football’s Peyton Manning and baseball’s Derek Jeter.
Teams and fans in the United States generally have opposed such branding, feeling it encroaches on a perceived purity and tradition of the sports. Some jerseys and equipment do have small ads on them.
In Europe, however, soccer jerseys are emblazoned with the logos of telephone companies and other major sponsors.
As higher player salaries force increased ticket prices, ultimately sports like Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association could be forced to tap additional revenue sources.
"The individual teams might put pressure on the leagues because of the economic pressures," Kain said at the Reuters Media and Advertising Summit in New York.
"It might be smaller, it might be more subtle than the European version but I think it’s here, whether it’s on the ice (in professional hockey) or on the sleeve," he said. "It’ll just keep growing a little bit more.
"I would be surprised if it did not."
Kain said that decades ago many probably doubted that golf, a generally conservative sport, would have been laced with the ads that now regularly appear on shirts and hats that professional players wear when they play.
Last year, however, Major League Baseball retreated from a plan to advertise a Spider-Man film sequel on its bases for a few days after a fan outcry.
Other popular sports have embraced advertising in a prominent way without alienating fans.
"It sure hasn’t hurt NASCAR, the most commercial organization in the world in terms of sponsorship, has it?" Kain said of the U.S. stock car racing association known for its logo-plastered cars and driver uniforms.
- Posted by Stephen on December 6th, 2005