The Washington Capitals (with Caesars Sportsbook) landed the league’s first such deal.Images: getty
With a new jersey crest sponsorship program in place for the 2022-23 season, this summer is a major sales period for NHL teams. Five clubs have announced jersey partnerships so far, and at least one other, the Minnesota Wild, has an as-yet-unannounced deal.
Keith Wachtel, senior executive vice president and chief business officer of the NHL, said the league was pleased with early results and the 32 teams were on track to generate “much more” than $100 million based on fees. means so far. “The revenue generation for the clubs that have secured sponsorships has exceeded our expectations,” he said.
Several third-party sales executives representing NHL teams were less enthusiastic about market reception compared to their initial expectations. They said that while the top teams can expect to make more than $10 million a year, most will be on seven-figure contracts.
Experts have cited the crowded market for sports uniform sponsorships as a hurdle for the NHL, which isn’t the only league to launch such a program. Most MLB teams that will begin wearing sponsor patches on their jerseys for the 2023 season are also in the patch partner market. So far, only the San Diego Padres have announced a deal with Motorola. A handful of NBA teams are also looking for renewals or new partners.
“There aren’t many companies that have the flexibility to take an existing marketing budget and throw money at it like that,” said Dan Griffis, president of global partnerships for Oak View Group.
Griffis added that teams will likely need to work with brands to shift marketing spend to 2023, as many companies will no longer have the budget to take on it this year. MLB teams won’t have this problem given that their program starts next year.
Unlike MLB and the NBA, the NHL offers several pieces of inventory on player uniforms: jerseys and helmets. The NHL also offers teams the flexibility to sign different jersey and helmet sponsors at home and on the road. Griffis said that could be a downside.
“It’s harder to tell that you’re the only brand associated with the team and the playing field,” he said.
Wachtel, however, said the flexibility has allowed teams to target a wider range of brands, including those that cannot afford full 82-game sponsorship. The home-away split also allows teams in legal sports betting markets to sell placement for home games to betting operators without carrying their logos in jurisdictions where betting is not legal. The Golden Knights and Capitals took advantage, announcing home jersey deals with Circa Las Vegas and Caesars Sportsbook, respectively.
Wachtel does not expect the 32 clubs to start the 2022-23 season with shirt partners. “Where the opportunity exists, our clubs sell it for the right value proposition,” he said. “If for some reason they don’t see this in their market, they wait.”