NHL’s Keith Wachtel Quiets Any Discussion Of Team Jersey Patch Deals

NEW YORK CITY — The NHL experimented with jersey advertisements during the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, where a logo from Germany-based software company SAP adorned the right shoulder of each team’s home and away jersey. Yet, the thought of expanding jersey sponsorships were quieted earlier this week by Keith Wachtel, NHL Executive Vice President of Global Partnerships and Chief Revenue Officer.

When asked by moderator Terry Lefton if advertisements might soon be seen during the regular season, similar to what more than half of the NBA teams have executed for the current year, Wachtel said the NHL is “following closely” what the NBA has done. However, he concluded that “right now, there are other ways that we see to bring in additional revenue streams without having to place a logo on the jersey.”

At the 2017 Stadium Sports Marketing Symposium, Wachtel added: “I think if we all had the model that they have over in Europe, that’d be tremendous. I think that’s great because it shows you can certainly replace a team logo for that. Our Commissioner has been on record saying that, ‘We’re not going to be the first’. We weren’t. The NBA has.”

Currently, 18 NBA teams have brokered jersey patch deals, with the Golden State Warriors’ being the most lucrative at a reported $20 million a year with Japanese technology and e-commerce firm Rakuten.

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Wachtel further explained in his answer that when he personally watches an NBA game on television, he can’t even see the patch, which currently measures 2.5 inches by 2.5 inches.

“I know companies are doing (a jersey patch deal) for a much better play at the local level,” he added. “I think it’s something that’s interesting but ultimately, there’s other and I think more effective ways to try and generate new revenue streams than just putting a patch. For us, I think it was successful for the World Cup. We did it on the shoulder. It was much bigger. And we did a lot of research on it. We tested all of the different ways people would view hockey games and all of the different angles from all of our broadcasters. And see what was the most valuable for a brand.”

Wachtel highlighted that with the jersey advertisements, there would be “a lot of complexities in terms of revenue sharing and the CBA involvement when it comes to the amount of money that would come into the property.” Still, he did say that “if we can do it, and we get the value,” Commission Gary Bettman “would be open to it.”

The statements from Wachtel are slightly dissimilar to what then NHL Chief Operating Officer John Collins said three years ago at the 2014 NeuLion Sports Media and Technology Conference. Collins, who departed from the league in 2015, said that jersey sponsorship was both “coming and happening.” The SportsBusiness Journal report didn’t elaborate on Collins’ comments, though.

Based on Wachtel’s remarks and prior comments, it still appears the NHL is in a wait-and-see mode in terms of carving out a piece of jersey real estate for corporate sponsors.

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About Mark J. Burns

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