So How Much Is an NFL Jersey Worth?

A while back, we did a Freakonomics Radio program asking why the NFL hasn’t (yet) put advertising on its players’ jerseys. One person we spoke with was Michael Neuman, then of Amplify Sports and Entertainment and now of Horizon Media. Neuman and Horizon have just released a report that tries to put a firm dollar figure on jersey sponsorship. SportsBusiness Journal has the writeup:

The four big stick-and-ball leagues are leaving a total of more than $370 million on the table annually by not selling jersey advertising, according to new research from Horizon Media.

The NFL, with its unrivaled ratings and concomitantly higher ad rates, topped the list for jersey valuations at nearly $231 million, or 62 percent of all potential big four jersey ad sales. However, the nature of football – with players more crowded together and with less static time facing the camera – means that the NFL offers the least of what the study terms “detections” among the four leagues, with 28,560 calculated over the course of a season. Baseball, meanwhile, with its typical center-field and behind-the-catcher camera angles, scored more than 314,000 detection opportunities.

The total jersey valuation for MLB teams came in at more than $101 million. The NBA total was $31 million, and the NHL at $8 million, according to the report.

The article covers some of the complications that we addressed in the podcast as well — for instance:

“If I’m an owner, I’m saying that’s my real estate. And if I’m a network with league rights and I can’t sell it, then I’m paying less for those rights,” said Chris Weil, CEO of marketing agency Momentum Worldwide, whose client list includes heavy sports spenders like Coca-Cola and American Express. “You also might run into a problem if you ask a player to take a pay cut, as they are in the current [NFL] labor negotiations, and then sell space on what a player might consider his jersey.”

By the way: next week, our Freakonomics Radio podcast and Marketplace segment will both explore the hidden side(s) of those NFL labor negotiations. You’ll hear from a variety of the principals involved, ranging from the league to the teams to the players’ union to the players themselves.


Interesting comparison of cultures. In Australia, in all the football codes and in one day cricket, there is advertising on jumpers, shorts and on the grass. Everything from road safety to retirement funds to well known US brands of take away food. Even the stumps and sight screens in cricket and goal posts in football have advertising on them. It's all pretty ho-hum.


Can we solve the NFL impasse this way? The players from each team split whatever money they get from advertisements on the jerseys?

Mojo Bone

Try asking grown men who play a kid's game for a fortune to go back to wearing jerseys with ads on them like they did in the peewee leagues, see what happens.


Soccer teams worldwide have had advertising on their uniforms for years. Most teams have an exclusive relationship with a single sponsor, with contracts usually running several years. However, unlike American sports leagues, there is no collective element to international soccer....each club is generally free to do as it wishes. FC Barcelona for years refused to carry advertising on its uniforms before recently relenting and developing a relationship with UNICEF.

Douglas C. Schwab II

Professor Dubner,

Unmentioned and critically important to this discussion is the factor international markets play in U.S. sports today.

I'm not sure what Horizon's data set parameters are, however, for a sport like basketball where the largest maket is China (not the U.S.), it seems to be a strange and glaring ommison that revenue from overseas isn't so much as even awknowledged.

Mike B

Perhaps you should explore why Soccer hasn't evolved stoppages to allow for television network ads? In any rational world if someone offered hundreds of millions of dollars to stop play every so often to show some ads the league's first response would be "how long and how often".


I feel that if the nfl was to creat more modern quality jerseys that they would sell more. The fact that most teams have had the same jerseys for years at a time, some never changing at all. Other professional sports are constantly making uniform modifications and producing new logos and such. This is why other leagues make more money for there merchandise. Fans attract items that appeal to the eyes.


The National Facebook leage should put advirtisements on there jerseys for sure. there missing out on tons of profit. they could seriously benefit from the money


I think that the NFL should allow jersey advertising because it will bring more money to the NFL. By bringing more money to the NFL there will be a less chance of a lockout 2011 season. With money from the advertising company's there so be an even greater chance of a lockout and the future.


I think the NFL should allow jersey advertisement, this way they can bring in more money to the organization. More money equals less problems, such as a lock out now there will be no revenue coming in. This is because now the fans are no happy because they don't get to see what they love. So now are you not only losing money from advertisements, you are losing alot of money from the fan base of the National Football League.



This is a very interesting idea. I feel like the players wouldn't support this idea, but it would work. It would be a great way for the NFL to make more money. I feel the players should get a percentage of the money for the advertising as well.


Wouldn't it be "better" to put advertisements on the field first? They would be more visible and you don't need to share the revenue with the grass.

In a related note, I've never seen advertisements on the referees in any sport if I'm not mistaken. I think there might be some unique opportunities there.


I'd hate to see all our professional sports sink to the level of NASCAR with every competitor completely covered in ads.


I wonder how it would be handled if a player's individual sponsor conflicted with the team sponsor.


@MIke: In a piece of marketing genius, soccer referees in Scotland are sponsored by SpecSavers - a UK company optician company.


The only major sport I follow is hockey, and you can see the results of plastering ads everywhere by looking at the European leagues. The jerseys are covered in ads for various products and companies and it looks extremely tacky. I don't want to see American sports get to the point where viewers need to squint at the screen to make out their team's colors and logo. It doesn't add anything to the game except the satiation of greed for someone who already possesses more wealth than most of us will ever see.


Shane thanks for the update! That's brilliant if I say so myself.

More than slightly off-topic - Maybe it would be cheaper for the NCAA to let "student" athletes advertise their GPA (major, ...) to perspective employers - rather than waste all that money on those hokey advertisements about going pro in something other than sports.


I would think it would be a great idea to put sponsorship on player jersey. It would help get teams that don't have a lot of money get some. Also the NFL could get some money from it too. The amount of the jersey would go up so when people buy it the NFL would get money. Overall I think it would be a great idea to do.


Putting advertisements on jerseys with certainly bring more money to a sports franchise. But i believe it should be up to the players considering that they are the ones who have to put on those jerseys every game day. Its technically their jersey, so they should decide whether they want a sunoco sign on it. Teams should get together every year and ask if the players are okay with it. If they are, put on some advertisements, but if they aren't, its their right and you shouldn't put them on.


I think it would be not a good to have sponsorships on players jersey. The money that each National sport would bring more income to them. But each National sport already makes millions of dollars anyway. So I think that having sponsorships would be bad. The money that the people spend on the sponsorships could be spending it on the economy instead.