It's absolutely everywhere. It still drives the economic engine of traditional media like radio, television and newspapers. Want to watch a video on YouTube? Sit through this :30 ad for Old Spice first. Gotta use the bathroom at your favorite watering hole? You'll likely see an add for a taxi service above the urinal.
Sporting events are certainly not immune from the grips of Madison Avenue.
By my count, 84 percent of all venues in the NFL, NHL, NBA and Major League Baseball have corporate sponsors attached to their names.
I serve as the public address announcer for the Arizona Rattlers of the Arena Football League and pretty much every scripted word that comes out of my mouth on game day has a sponsor attached to it -- Gold's Gym, Buffalo Wild Wings, Casino Arizona.
You know what? None of it bothers me.
But to me, as a sports fan, there's one area that's untouchable and should remain ad free: the uniform.
Unfortunately, NBA commissioner Adam Silver disagrees with me.
"Yes and yes," is how Silver answered national radio host Dan Patrick when asked if jersey advertising was viable and inevitable.
"Maybe it's because I spent so many years of my two decades here selling the NBA internationally and traveling internationally, but it is so commonplace for soccer clubs around the world and basketball clubs as well outside the United States," he continued. "In this day and age of non-live programming where people are using their DVR and skipping through commercials it's just that much more of an opportunity for our sponsors to get that much closer to our game, to be close to our athletes."
First off, I'm not buying the soccer argument. The gameplay in soccer doesn't lend itself to television commercial breaks. Each half is 45 minutes of running clock...they're not pausing for a word from their sponsors. Soccer and television adapted, instead introducing on-screen advertising during broadcasts. Talk about valuable ad space -- there's no escaping advertising during the game.
Although it's not nearly as prevalent as it is in Europe, for example, advertising on uniforms is not a foreign concept to Americans. If you played youth sports, you almost certainly had the name and phone number of a local business kind enough to shell out a few hundred bucks to help with team expenses. They deserved to have their name on the uniform. Hell, CS Construction wasn't getting their name splashed on the tube during telecasts of Phoenix Fire Sunrays soccer games. In addition to having candy bar fundraisers and recycling aluminum cans, sponsorship for our team eased the financial burden put on parents for things like trophies, warm-ups, etc.
The NBA has existed for 68 years without littering the uniforms of the league's franchises.
I know other basketball leagues in the United States have gone down this road. But let's play a little game...look at the following pictures and name the WNBA franchise. Betcha can't.
The answers, if you care are Seattle Storm, Indiana Fever, Tulsa Shock and Washington Mystics.
But the puzzle is, why would any organization want to minimize their own brand, which all four of these WNBA teams have, and emphasize another company (or two) on their own uniforms?
The answer, of course, is money. In a league like the WNBA, I actually think this makes some sense. Money doesn't grow on trees the way it does in the NBA.
For the four major league North American sports leagues, I happen to think a team's identity is way more valuable and important than the brand of an advertiser -- especially in the NBA, where the league sells millions of dollars worth of apparel annually.
Think these jerseys would sell?
I'm not speaking for anybody else, but I wouldn't buy one. All of the above reek of 'minor league' -- and that's not a knock on the sponsors. In fact, I'd have a hard time identifying with a team that "sold" their own identity for a few bucks.
Again, if I'm at a game, watching on television or listening on the radio, go ahead and beat me over the head with advertising. I believe that's fair game.
Leave the uniforms alone. Surely, Mr. Silver, you're creative enough to come up with an alternate revenue stream.