Is the NFL Missing a Huge Ad Opportunity?

Would this change the game of football? Or at least make stadium hot dogs more affordable? (Illustration: Casey DePont, WNYC)

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Is the NFL Missing a Huge Ad Opportunity?

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Stephen Dubner recently talked to Marketplace Morning Report host Steve Chiotakis about why the NFL doesn’t sell advertising on its jerseys the way European soccer teams do.

At the NFL’s annual London game this Sunday — where the 49ers will play the Broncos — there will be a lot more advertising than usual for an NFL game. So what’s the holdup on jerseys? Advertising has already hit practice jerseys earlier this year.

For the full podcast treatment wherein we tackle this seemingly simple question, listen to “The NFL’s Best Real Estate Isn’t For Sale. Yet.


The largest difference between an NFL team and a European soccer team is that no one can stop the soccer team from selling jersey real estate. It wouldn't be legal. The teams in European soccer are far more individual and powerful than the leagues are.


How about selling space on the back of the clipboard coaches' hold? When the coaches use the board to prevent lip reading, the back of the clipboard is clearly visible.

Perhaps an internet security company or identity theft company could buy that space.


Ingeniuous idea Linny


European Ice hockey is similar. They're sponsored literally from head to foot.

Olly Benson

Interesting that you mentioned Unicef, who are the shirt 'sponsor' of Spanish team, Barcelona. You didn't mention that Barcelona actually *pay* Unicef to carry their logo; not the other way around!

However, someone at Barcelona must have been listening to your podcast, because for the first time ever, Barcelona have just agreed to a shirt sponsor:



One thing that could be noted is that European footballers still sign up to big sponsorship deals independently from the team. David Beckham sponsors all sorts of product separately from what his team has on the shirt, or the stadium in its name.


Just started on the podcasts, so not sure if anyone will get this.
Here's a few things I was hoping would be mentioned in this discussion that werent:
The potential for revenue canibalization was mentioned with respect to television advertising, something that is entirely absent from European soccer. With no commercial breaks, they must get their advertising revenue elsewhere.
Football jerseys are required to have large numbers on the front and back and it's easy to see why: the referees have to be able to quickly identifiy any player.
They would have to look at the trade-off brought about in jersey sales. The Jets fellow mentioned the branding as it relates to raising his son as a Jets fan. But I suspect people would be less likely to wear a Jets jersey if it were actually an AT&T jersey.
I was a bit surpised to hear that the one guy thought basketball and hockey would be most likely. I understand that it's because of the financial situations of the league, but from a visibility stand point, those two sports would present television viewers with the least exposure to the ads because of game pace and camera angle. The ads would not be tremendously visible during game play in football, but with the onslaught of replays following each down, there would be plenty of air time (even for small ads). Really, the best place in sports for a jersey advertisement would be on the back of a baseball pitchers jersey.