|By Jon Weinbach|
Wall Street Journal
Major League Soccer doesn’t have the talent, tradition or TV ratings of more storied American sports leagues. But starting next spring, MLS will be the first major team sports league in the U.S. to showcase ads where viewers can’t miss them: on the fronts of player jerseys.
Aside from Nascar, no major American sports league permits prominent advertising on team jerseys, though the practice has long been accepted in Europe, Asia and Latin America. The MLS deal allows clubs to sell their own jersey rights and keep a majority of the revenue, a marked change for the 11-year-old league, which in the past has conducted most of its business through a central office and pooled sponsorship dollars.
Corporate logos on MLS jerseys could be a sign of things to come. A few years ago, Major League Baseball toyed with the idea of selling sponsorships on jersey sleeves, and MLB and the National Football League already allow apparel makers such as Reebok and Majestic to display their logos on team uniforms. In an interview last year, National Basketball Association commissioner David Stern conceded that the league would “consider changing our policies” on uniform sponsors. The reason: In an era of soaring player salaries and sagging TV ratings, teams and leagues are under increasing pressure to generate ancillary income from merchandise, stadium amenities and local media deals.
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