Advertising on Professional Sports Uniforms



As sports enthusiast consumers increasingly begin to tune out traditional advertising methods when they watch sports (such as TV commercials and arena sponsors), companies have discovered a way to keep their targets eyes on their brand, by placing them on the athletes themselves with jersey sponsorships. (Brennan) The U.S. is taking a page out of the European sports handbook where advertisements have already made their way to the forefront of teams’ uniforms in soccer, basketball, and hockey. Sponsors in the U.S. have already found their way onto WNBA and MLS uniforms, replacing the teams’ logo in the center with the highest paying company.

And the NFL and NBA are also taking advantage of this opportunity and have started to try out advertising on practice jerseys. The Tennesee Titans have had a small patch for a local hospital on their practice jerseys, which they actually had placed on their over a decade ago. In 2008, the league made this activity league-wide. And, as of that being permitted, five teams immediatly jumped on the band-wagon, including: New York Jets,New York Giants,Indiana Colts , and the Chicago Bears.(McCarthy)

Reasons for and Limitations

Today’s sports consumer has found many ways to get around advertisements during viewing. Therefore there couldn’t be a better way to reach all of your potential targets than by creating brand awareness during the whole game. Anytime you look at an athlete wearing a sponsored jersey you are being subjected to that ad at an incredibly high frequency rate during the sporting event and even after during highlights. Not to mention the fact that now the consumers will be wearing your companies brand whenever they purchase said uniform, almost like a walking billboard. It also doesn’t hurt for a company to affiliate itself with something consumers already love and respect such as a hometown sports franchise. This will also benefit whichever teams allow advertisements because this is guaranteed money annually for teams to use.

Ad clutter may also occur when too many ads are placed on the uniform. This is especially true with NASCAR’s driver uniforms. There is hardly any space that isn’t full of advertisements and sponsors. Unfortunately in NASCAR, the cars themselves are what steal the show. Drivers in their uniforms are really only seen after the race. This means that there is only a small window of time for viewers on site as well as watching at home to catch a glimpse of an ad on the uniform. Not only do we see the racers in the uniform for a short amount of time, but usually only the winners are televised and broadcast on television. (Crossman, 28)

As far as limitations go there is really not a whole lot of room for multiple advertisements on jerseys because then you would have too much clutter. There may be one or two sponsors total for a jersey (only one so far in the U.S.) and it’s almost guaranteed that the more recognized sports franchises will be getting bids from multi-million dollar corporations and will not offer anything for local business owners who do not have the budget allocations to pursue such a high profile advertisement space. Some companies’ logos are also not so aesthetically pleasing and with jersey sales contributing to a large chunk of teams’ revenues there would also be issues with putting ugly logos on their merchandise which could hurt sales (Lemke). There is also a lot of resistance to this idea with the major sports in the U.S. such as MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL. Many fans believe that this would tarnish the image of their hometown teams and create even more emphasis on generating revenue and less on pleasing the fans.
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Cost, Reach and Frequency

As far as costs range it is going to depend on which sports and which team you are trying to purchase a sponsorship for. So far in the U.S. deals have ranged from $1 million to $2 million a year but in Europe deals have already reached $19 million a year (AIG and Manchester United).

The reach of ads on uniforms can range anywhere from 280,000 (attendance + average viewers) consumers in the less popular sports to over 11,000,000 consumers in the more popular such as the NFL and NBA. Frequency is a little more difficult to estimate considering the athletes are wearing the brand and it would depend partially on the viewers’ attention but the frequency would be easily in the thousands for however long each scheduled game lasts. Not including highlights on sports networks and the consumers themselves wearing the brand on replica uniforms outside of sporting events. Most companies could only dream of being able to reach that high a number of their target audience and create a frequency of that magnitude which is why ads on uniforms could be emerging as a norm in professional sports everywhere.
Impact of/Responsiveness to

The impact of advertising on sports uniforms can be felt by consumers, the teams, and their sponsors. The consumer will obviously have to deal with the sight of the brand on their teams’ uniform but with the increased revenue from the sale of the ad space consumers should see cut backs on ticket prices or merchandise. The teams will obviously gain from the extra revenue for naming rights on their uniforms and if they are able to pass savings onto the consumer than hopefully that will create more word of mouth advertising and bring in more customers. (Lemke) Sponsors will benefit from the tremendous amount of face time they will get with their targets and increased brand awareness usually means increase sales revenue.

The responsiveness to this form of advertising could have a backlash effect at first. Many Americans are opposed to the idea “defiling” their teams’ uniforms with a corporate logo so they may be resistant to the sponsoring brand at first. So far there has been one major setback in the world of advertising on sports uniforms and it comes in the form of one of its largest innovators. AIG, the insurance giant that owns the sponsorship rights to Manchester United was dropped this year after they received $150 billion in federal bail outs from the U.S. government. (Molinaro) This proves that the sponsoring companies’ image must fit that of the sports teams’ or business ties will be cut. After the initial “getting used to” phase I believe that fans will eventually come to familiarize with the sponsoring brand and view it as a part of their teams’ identity.

Successful Advertising Applications

In the U.S. there are a number of companies who have successfully acquired uniform sponsorships. McDonalds acquired space for their arches on all WNBA jerseys for their season openers in 2009 and most recently LifeLock has purchased the rights to the Phoenix Mercury jerseys. In the MLS the L.A. Galaxy sold their uniform rights to Herbalife when David Beckham was brought in to increase fan awareness of the sport and since then many if not all teams have followed suit including the D.C. United accepting a sponsorship from automotive giant Volkswagen. The NFL has begun selling ad space on practice uniforms and the New York Jets are scheduled to receive $2 million a year from Atlantic Health for the ads. (McCarthy, Perez)
Notice Timex on Left Shoulder


(2005, November 30) “More Ads on US Sports Uniforms on the Way”. Reuters. March 30, 2010 from

Brennan, Christine. (2009, June 3) “Advertising on team jerseys is just the latest in sports marketing”. USA Today. March 30, 2010 from

Crossman, M. (2005). Living the NASCAR life. (Cover story). Sporting News, 229(17), 28-32. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.

Lemke, Tim. (2009, August 6) “SportsBiz: No longer sacred ground;
U.S. teams shouldn't hesitate to sell ads for jerseys”. The Washington Times. March 30 2010 from

McCarthy, Michael and A.J. Perez. (2009, July 28) “NBA, NHL soften stance on jersey ads”. USA Today. March 30, 2010 from

Molinaro, Bob. (2009, June 3) “Ads on uniforms might just help patch hole in sports budgets”. The Virginia-Pilot. March 30, 2010 from