Packers Manager of Corporate Communications Aaron Popkey confirmed to Cheesehead TV today that the Packers are exploring the possibility of adding corporate sponsorship to their practice jerseys in the form of a small patch featuring a corporate logo. (Popkey gets points taken away for his strict adherence to his PR talking points. Indeed, the quotes attributed to SVP of Marketing and Sales Laura Sankey in the Associated Press report are almost an identical match to what Popkey gave me over the phone. On the other hand, he offsets that and gets many points in his favor for actually calling a blogger back.) The Packers would be taking advantage of a new rule approved by NFL owners in March allowing the long-taboo-in-the-NFL practice of corporate sponsorship to encroach on the playing field past the sport-related level. (Equipment, sports drinks, etc) This follows closely on the heels of the Packers reported interest in exploring the possibility of working out a lottery deal, wherin the Packers logo would be placed on a state lottery ticket.
Purists have been up in arms, but really, it's not like the Packers have much choice.
Even if, by some miracle, the NFLPA and the league come to an agreement before the current CBA expires and revenue sharing is saved and the salary cap maintained, the fact remains that more and more owners will be building bigger and bigger stadiums, the revenue from which will be outside the purvey of the leagues revene sharing system. (Yes, I realize that this is partly what the two parties will be negotiating, but do you really think for one second that Danny Snyder or Jerry Jones will allow their personal shrines to the almighty dollar to generate revenue for other teams? Not on your life...) And as these stadiums get built, the Packers will fall further and further down the valuation list of NFL teams. Look at that list, from September of 2008. The Packers are ranked at number 16. In 2004, the year after the Packers finished remodeling Lambeau Field, they were in the Top 10. And don't be fooled into thinking that if everything falls into place and the Packers go on a Super Bowl run, that their fortunes will be drastically altered. Even after a 13-3 season that saw a NFC Championship Game played at Lambeau Field, the Packers failed to crack the Top 10, and this was before the current economic downturn had truly gripped the country.
If you're a Packer fan, jersey sponsorship should be welcome, if somewhat inevitable news. Of course some will point to the fact that "Its only a practice jersey" - but we all know better, don't we? It's only a matter of time until we see larger and larger swaths of uniform, practice and game day, taken up by corporate sponsorship. As someone who watches the English Premier League, (oh, I'm sorry, I mean the Barclay's Premier League) this doesn't bother me in the slightest, especially if it will help keep the Packers around as a viable NFL franchise for years to come, which it most certainly will.
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