Advertising in the sports industry is an ever-shifting landscape, and revenue losses resulting from the pandemic have inspired some professional North American sports leagues to change their strategies in how they utilize sponsorships and advertising. Additionally, as more states legalize sports betting, new opportunities for partnerships are emerging for the leagues to capitalize on. But how are American sports fans feeling about these highly visible moves within their favorite sports? 

The next big thing in sports advertising: Sponsor logo placement on team uniforms.

The National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League (NHL), and Major League Baseball (MLB) have all begun adding sponsored patches to their team uniforms. The NBA and NHL both now utilize jersey sponsorships, while the MLB will begin featuring them in the 2023 season – a move that has already proven beneficial for baseball teams and professional leagues as a whole. 

On-jersey sponsorship logos are nothing new within the professional ranks of hockey in Europe or minor league levels of North America. The NHL, however, was slow to embrace this trend until the pandemic shutdowns and abbreviated seasons slashed revenues and profits sharply. The league is currently in its first season with on-jersey advertising. A CivicScience poll from December 2022 shows the majority (54%) of NHL fans disapprove of the league’s use of sponsorship logos on team uniforms, five percentage points higher than Gen Pop. 

NBA fans, now in year five with uniform ads, hold the highest rate of approval (32%) and lowest percent of disapproval (43%) among the big three leagues that use on-uniform ads.

The NHL has a new way to maximize ad space: Going Digital.

Looking for more creative ways to get the most out of its advertising strategy, the NHL has begun digitizing its ads on the dasherboards around the rink during broadcasts. Fans in the arena still see the usual static banners but those watching the broadcast see a digital and animated cycle of ads catering to the market they’re watching from. The digital transition hasn’t been the smoothest.  

The latest CivicScience data show fan reception to the new style of digital advertising on the boards is decidedly mixed. More NHL fans (37%) disapprove of the new digitized ads than approve of them.    

The legalization of sports betting has leagues going all in.

As more states legalize sports betting, advertising and partnerships with the major professional sports have risen dramatically. Last February, the NHL announced a multi-year deal with PointsBet specifically to integrate its content into games. Such deals have shown to be lucrative for sports leagues. The NFL, for example, netted nearly $1 billion in revenue from sports betting partnerships last season.

CivicScience polled fans of the big four sports leagues in the U.S. to gauge favorability levels of the increased advertising of sports betting. NHL fans showed the highest percentage of disapproval, as more than half (55%) aren’t too keen on the increased presence of sports-betting related advertising and segments during games.

On the flip side, about one-quarter (24%) of MLB fans approve of more sports betting content and advertising, five percentage points higher than Gen Pop and three percentage points higher than the next closest league’s fans.

Advertising in sports is in a state of change, but reception among sports fans is a mixed bag, with more feeling unfavorable than favorable to recent developments.

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