TSN’s Rick Westhead reported recently that Adidas would become the new rights holder for NHL jerseys starting with the 2016-17, and the announcement spawned a number of negative reactions.
The NHL’s deal with Reebok pays the league about $35 million per season, a source said. The new deal with Adidas will see the rights fee double, the source said. A source told TSN that the deal would surely mean big changes to uniform designs, perhaps with Adidas’s familiar three-stripe trademark being added to some or all team jerseys.
The NHL might not want big changes like that, but for the money Adidas will pay, they’ll be pretty aggressive pushing to make the NHL jerseys identifiable with their brand, the source said.
The mere word that big changes to the uniform could be coming led to speculation of ad placement becoming more of a reality, and immediately there were visions of Euro league jerseys in the heads of many fans. The line of thought suggests that if the league is going to rebrand, why not incorporate Adidas’ branding and ads in one shot?
Personanlly, I cannot WAIT to get my mitts on the soon to be new classic Montreal Canadiens Adidas Billboards! pic.twitter.com/FwtUmxgzC8
— Patrick M. (@generationxwing) August 17, 2015
While the news certainly suggests thats ads could be coming, I don’t think that jerseys are going to turn into billboards right away.
Not sure NHL's move to Adidas is a huge deal since Adidas owns Reebok.
— Eric Macramalla (@EricOnSportsLaw) August 17, 2015
Adidas is the parent company of Reebok, and there’s a good possibility there were some preliminary discussions about potential mockups, and what direction they would be headed in. Money certainly was a contributing factor in the rumored deal, but if Adidas’ proposed design was completely crazy I am sure Reebok would have indicated that to the NHL.
Reebok as a brand is going into a new direction as a company focusing on fitness, but I’d have a hard time believing that they don’t care about who is taking over for them. So using that line of thinking, what could the new jerseys potential look like?
The TSN report suggests that the three stripes could make their way into the final product, and I could see that coming in the form of the neck tag. As an aside, here’s what an Adidas hockey jersey already looks like.
. @roccot24 @bardown Could, but probably not. No precedent to suggest that'll be the path they take. For example. pic.twitter.com/HfrcuZxsx6
— Phil Kocher (@PhilKocher) August 17, 2015
The above is pretty straight forward, and it incorporates the logo on the chest in a low profile fashion. This would work well for teams who incorporate stripes in their current scheme, but it wouldn’t for every team.
Therefore it would make sense to modify the current NHL jersey whether it be the most recent one that features a Reebok word mark, or the sweaters that featured the RBK vector logo.
Going away from the word mark would be an easy way for Adidas to incorporate their signature logo, and it would be a better alternative to placing it on the front as suggested above if there were concern that it could take away space from other patches.
That could be the case, but I could the NHL going in a direction similar to the concept displayed below, with more of an emphasis on the branding of the pants and socks.
Hmm Flyers.. http://t.co/hGDHo8jsou pic.twitter.com/XawPTlKuNn
— TOU (@TheOrangeUpdate) August 21, 2015
The above looks pretty good to be honest, and it gets the job done by featuring the a low profile logo on the front under the NHL shield, a logo on the pants and a word mark across the back. The stripes on the side of the pants and jersey bottom are also a nice touch, and it completes the overall look.
The above images certainly show that a rebranding with Adidas can be done tastefully, but what about a jersey also featuring ads? Phil Kocher is an accomplished graphic designer, and he was kind enough to make a few team specific mockups to show that branding could be featured on jerseys.
. @tomurtzjr I've shown potential placements in the past. Can be done quite tastefully. pic.twitter.com/5k2Q76vIRE
— Phil Kocher (@PhilKocher) August 18, 2015
As you can see, the ads stand out, but they are at least relevant to the specific team and can ultimately become a norm in due time. Obviously this an situation in which multiple ads are include, and I could see a situation in which the NHL features one ad and one version of the Adidas branding.
I wouldn’t be surprised if teams try to get creative in placement of branding, although I wouldn’t be surprised if rules are put in place to ensure ads are visible.
Here’s an example of something I could see a team try, and it would be a way to skirt the issue.
A quick look inside my closet would reveal a trove of NHL sweaters, so I can assure you this is a subject near and dear to my heart. I don’t like the idea of change coming to an industry I spend a significant amount of money in, but it a reality to accept.
NHL’ers like Blake Wheeler may say that the jersey is something sacred not to be messed with, but an extra logo or two isn’t going to be a big deal.
An NHL uniform is a sacred thing and it's an honor to wear one. Putting corporate sponsors on the front would tarnish that. Don't do it
— Blake Wheeler (@BiggieFunke) August 18, 2015
The NHL already has ads on the ice and on the boards. The All-Star Game, awards ceremony and so on have sponsors. Individual teams have sponsors for the power play, the penalty kill, statistical milestones etc. Ultimately I think the NHL understands that their uniforms are some of the best in professional sports, and they are not going to do anything to tarnish them.
I remember there being a similar amount of hysteria and outrage when the Edge line was announced and introduced, but ultimately things turned out fine. Right now the biggest problem is that there is speculation and overreaction based on what fans know of ads on jerseys, but really we should all just chill out and remember it is August and there isn’t much else to freak out about.
We should know more once the partnership is made official, and until then we should all agree on the fact that no matter what happens, the new jerseys won’t be worse than these: