Written by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)
Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
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Yesterday, as I was driving to work, I listened to Mike and Mike (or whatever awful substitute they had filling in that day) yammer on and on about Adam Silver’s statement that advertising on uniforms was inevitable. Of course, conversations of this nature always lead to discussions of the “good old days” when sports hadn’t bowed to kiss the hind parts of corporate America. You know, when men were men and stadiums weren’t named after companies…or were they?
This got me thinking about when naming rights really became a thing, and naturally my thinking focused in on baseball. Now sure, back in the beginnings of the sport, stadiums were named after anything from the neighborhood they were located in to the team that called the venue home. Some of them just had cool freaking names…like The Polo Grounds…but I digress. Seriously though, when did this whole thing start? Call me a skeptic, but I look at one of baseball’s most sacred parks as the birth place of naming rights…that’s right…Wrigley Field.
Wrigley Field started out as Weeghman Park, then Cubs Park, before finally landing at the name we know today. The name Wrigley Field was given to the park when William Wrigley took complete ownership of the Cubs franchise from Weeghman. As you well know, Wrigley wasn’t just some guy with a lot of money, he was the brain behind Wrigley Chewing Gum. Wrigley funded the Cubs with his business, so basically he was doing naming rights before naming rights was the thing to do.
You must understand that this realization completely changed my view of the naming rights situation. I quickly realized that without the original naming rights given to Wrigley Field by the man himself, the Cubs probably wouldn’t exist as they do today. Wrigley was ahead of his time.
Anyhow…from that point, my focus returned to the idea of whether or not advertising on the actual uniform is acceptable or not. It’s done now in almost every sport. If you don’t believe me, look at college football. You see the Nike swoosh on every garish uniform out there (outside of Maryland’s Under Armor debacle). You think that Phil Knight doesn’t consider that to be advertising? Sure he does. He’s banking on the fact that someone will think those designs are cool and that in turn, he will sell them to the drunken masses at $200 a pop.
Apparently it’s only the style of advertising that makes us feel uneasy about things. We have no problem with the manufacturer’s logo showing up on clothing (all for money like I said) but stick a patch of some other company on that uniform…whew…people get ticked! Now this is much more mainstreamed in sports like soccer and auto racing, it just hasn’t wormed its way into the big four…yet.
The bottom line is this: teams need revenues to pay players with ever increasing salaries in order to draw you, the fans, to the venue. You want player salaries to drop? You want ticket prices to go down? You want adds to stop showing up on the jerseys? Then quit going to the games and consuming the product. That’s the only way any of this will ever change.
I myself don’t particularly like the aesthetic possibilities that jersey advertisements present, but I’m willing to let that slide if it helps my Cubbies last long enough to win the World Series.