One of the most unusual sponsorships in the NHL is apparently over. The San Jose Mercury News reports that the Sharks have banned the owner and associates of Bad Boys Bail Bonds from wearing their t-shirts in the front row. The shirts have become ubiquitous and impossible to miss while watching any San Jose game telecast. What makes this case even stranger is that Bad Boys was a team sponsor in the past. Bad Boys had its logo plastered behind the penalty box at a cost of $70,000 per season. To go along with that, the Bad Boys logo was seen on shirts behind the Sharks bench during each home game in a form of ambush marketing. Bad Boys decided not to renew their advertisement deal and the Sharks have subsequently banned their t-shirts.
This is certainly an interesting case. If Bad Boys can get away with getting essentially free advertising while paying for the seats, what’s stopping other companies from doing the same? And it’s likely that people wearing shirts and moving around would attract much more attention than a static ad on the glass. Can you imagine people wearing Labatt Blue shirts right behind an ad for Molson and the issue that would create?
The real problem stems from the Sharks failure to ban this at the beginning. The Sharks look pretty bad with the timing on all this as it comes right as Bad Boys stopped paying the team. The Bad Boys shirts were very distracting and I can imagine that Porsche, which advertises behind the Sharks bench, did not want this somewhat annoying ambush marketing from distracting from its own message. If the Sharks had been more proactive, this probably wouldn’t have become an issue. Now it will turn into a PR battle and may even end up in court.