Washington Capitals jersey sponsorship deal asks NHL questions

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The NHL jersey advertising program has taken off. From 2022-2023, the Washington Capitals will wear the Caesars Sportsbook logo on their home and third shirts, marking a significant change in the franchise’s relationship with the bookmaker.

“Being woven into the Washington Capitals jersey is an exciting chapter in our collective history,” said Caesars co-chair Chris Holdren. “We love blazing trails and are always on the lookout for innovative opportunities that drive engagement and storytelling for fans. We are proud to extend our historic partnership with such a rich franchise.

Jim Van Stone, Chief Operating Officer of Capitals’ parent company called the deal a “wonderful opportunity for development and fan engagement for both organizations in the nation’s capital.”

Earlier this year, Caesars launched the first stadium-based sportsbook in the United States at the Capital One Arena.

In August, it was revealed that the NHL Board of Governors had voted unanimously to approve the jersey announcements for the 2022-2023 season. The move gave franchises the green light to approach potential business partners, with each team being allowed to sell a 3-by-3.5-inch sponsorship patch on player uniforms.

Washington signed the first NHL jersey sponsorship deal on Friday, striking a multi-year deal with Caesars Entertainment. The partnership, worth $ 5 million per season, will see the bookmaker’s logo appear on the Capitals’ home and third jersey from 2022 to 2023.

The multi-year partnership agreement now places the @ CesarsSports logo on the home caps and third shirts from 2022-2023. The announcement marks the first agreement announced by the team under the NHL jersey advertising program. https://t.co/AJCFJ8yQ05

However, the partnership will only cover matches played at Capital One Arena due to inconsistencies in gambling laws in the United States and Canada.

The Capitals will announce an away shirt sponsor at a later date.

NHL Journey To Jersey Ads

Only six years have passed since NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman proclaimed he “should be kicked and screamed” to introduce jersey sponsorship. “I’m in no rush to advertise our sweaters, I love the history and the tradition and their look,” he said in 2015.

Obviously, a lot has changed since then, both inside and outside the NHL.

While the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) decision to introduce vest sponsorship in 2017-18 increased pressure on Bettman to act, it was the COVID-19 pandemic that forced the change to opinion of the NHL. Resistance to uniform sponsorship within the league collapsed after the introduction of helmet ads last season, mainly because the change reminded owners of the lucrative opportunities they had previously missed.

Alexander Romanov CSKA Moscow
In the Continental Hockey League (KHL), sponsorship of jerseys and helmets is commonplace. (Photo by Sergey Savostyanov TASS via Getty Images)

In addition, the end of the advertising ban on NHL jerseys aligns high performance hockey with other major sports in the region.

One of Major League Soccer (MLS) 27 franchises, Atlanta United, is reportedly making $ 3-4 million per season through its sponsorship deal with American Family Insurance. Not only is the Capitals’ deal with Caesars more lucrative, the advertising patch is also smaller and won’t be placed on all team uniforms.

In other words, the NHL should receive a significant boon by allowing sponsorship of jerseys. In an era of pandemic austerity, policymakers were never going to say ‘no’.

Jersey sponsorship remains unpopular among fans

While jersey announcements have proven popular among the NHL board of directors, the same cannot be said of the league’s national fan base. There has been backlash against the introduction of helmet ads and resistance to the expansion of uniform sponsorship remains.

The Washington-Caesars deal is a litmus test for the NHL. If signing a shirt sponsorship deal with a bookmaker doesn’t spark a fan revolt in Washington, other franchises will be empowered to act just as aggressively. Time will tell us.

Ted Leonsis, the game and the Washington Capitals

Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has long talked about the “gamification” of hockey. He believes that the North American sports industry should make significant gains following the liberalization of gambling laws in the United States.

“I wish we didn’t call it gambling,” Leonsis said last year. “For me, the game is about rolling the dice. I have no control over the outcome. Sports betting is informed by data. The more research you do, the more due diligence you do, the more you study, the smarter your bet will be.

Leonsis’ equation is simple: creating more hockey betting opportunities will increase the game’s audience (and potential profitability).

“Sport and technology come together in this new process of play,” said the Capitals owner. “I think the connectivity and the data, and everything, turned on by the real world community, and then watching these gifted athletes play, are going to continue to grow the sports industry.”

Alex Ovechkin Washington Capitals 700 goals
If Alexander Ovechkin surpasses Wayne Gretzky’s record for goals at home, he will do so sporting the logo of a bookmaker. (Photo by Patrick Smith / Getty Images)

Even so, Washington’s latest partnership is not only on sponsorship of jerseys. Monumental Sports & Entertainment (MSE) – the company through which Leonsis’ businesses are operated – enabled Caesars to launch a bookie at Capital One Arena in May. The two-story, 18,000-square-foot site is the first betting center to open in an American sports facility.

Make no mistake, Leonsis and his Capitals are wholeheartedly committed to gamification. Where this process leads, the NHL could be problematic.

Source of concern: Gambling in English football

The United States Supreme Court struck down a 1992 federal law that effectively banned sports betting in most states three years ago. A similar story can be told in Canada, where single match betting was legalized in August 2021.

The floodgates are open: North American professional sports teams and competitions have the green light to form partnerships with bookmakers. But should they?

In the UK, the relationship between sport and play has reached worrying heights.

Bolton Wanderers, an English football third-division club, recently announced that it would not sign any new sponsorship deals with gambling companies. Instead, the team said it will “seek to support charities and organizations that seek to help those suffering from betting addiction.”

🚫 Bolton Wanderers will no longer provide any on-site betting arrangements at the @UoBStadium or enter into new business partnerships and sponsorships with companies representing the gaming industry. #BWFC 🐘🏰

On the subject, President Sharon Brittan said: ‘The latest research shows that there are between 340,000 and 1.4 million adult drug addicts in the UK and over 60,000 young people between the ages of 11 and 16 are addicted. .

“As an industry we need to do more and through our work with Bolton Wanderers in the community, the Bolton Wanderers Football Club will support outreach programs for those with gambling problems.”

However, the English Football League (EFL) – of which Bolton is a member – is sponsored by Sky Bet. The situation is also endemic in the Premier League, where nine of its 20 clubs are sponsored by gambling companies. According to research by the University of Glasgow, there were 716 ‘exposures’ to the game in a recent game between Newcastle United and Wolverhampton Wanderers – an average of six per minute.

Betting ads are now a staple in British sport. By authorizing the sponsorship deal for the Caesars-Capitals jersey, the NHL risks falling asleep in the same vein.



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