Is advertising on professional sports teams’ jerseys going too far?

Sponsors of professional sports teams are going as far as printing their company’s logo on the front of a sports franchise’s uniforms

More stories from Parker Reed

The Los Angeles Galaxy is one of the many professional sports franchises that features a company advertisement on the front of their uniforms, that dwarfs the name of the team.

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The Los Angeles Galaxy is one of the many professional sports franchises that features a company advertisement on the front of their uniforms, that dwarfs the name of the team.

Sponsors are essential to the wellbeing of any sports franchise. Along with television contracts and ticket and merchandise sales, sponsors are the financial backbone for teams. However, they may be crossing the line with the latest advertising trend sweeping the sports world.

Usually sponsors’ logos or names are placed around the perimeter of the field, around the stadium or at the very most, on the sleeve of a team’s uniform. But now sponsors are taking their marketing strategy one step further and placing gigantic logos on the front of the teams’ everyday uniforms.

Leagues like Major League Soccer (MLS), FIFA football and most recently, the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), are all following this latest trend. On the front of these leagues’ jerseys lies a gigantic sponsor logo, and the name of the sports team has been reduced to a small patch in the upper right corner of the jersey or omitted entirely (like in the WNBA).

This strikes me as foul for one very important reason: It turns these athletes into walking billboards.

Usually when a viewer of a sporting event looks at an athlete, they think of their athleticism or think about the team they belong to, but now, instead of thinking about the team when they look at a uniform, they are being forced to consume another advertisement for a product that sometimes has nothing to do with the actual sport it is sponsoring.

So now instead of having the jersey remain a symbol of that team, it is becoming reduced to another billboard. However, the reason why some teams are doing this may surprise you.

The sporting world is dominated by the four main sporting leagues in the United States: Those being the National Football League (NFL), the National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Hockey League (NHL). With these teams holding the monopoly on the sports world, it is becoming increasingly difficult for smaller leagues to remain financially stable.

A good example of this is the WNBA. Women’s sports in America constantly battle for relevance in male dominated-sports, so they are forced to be creative in ways to generate revenue, whether that is decreasing ticket prices, trying to increase television viewership or selling advertisements. The latter is now becoming even more widespread and intrusive to the sport itself.

The financial motivations are more evident in the trend gaining ground in less popular leagues as opposed to the four major leagues.

This paradigm between keeping sports pure and keeping sporting leagues above water has interjected an interesting conundrum into the fans who love these leagues’ principles. Should we be O.K. with even more advertising in a world flooded with ads?

The reality of the situation is that we don’t have to be O.K. with it, but we need to tolerate it if we want some of the less popular sports franchises to remain intact. It won’t become a huge issue until we start to see teams actually named after sponsors.

Wait, there is a team in the MLS named after the energy drink Red Bull (the New York Red Bulls). Well, I guess that conversation is up for next week.