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Freakonomics Radio: Is football taking sponsorships to the next level?

Freakonomics Radio with Stephen Dubner. Online at FreakonomicsRadio.com

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: This weekend, in the NFL, the Denver Broncos take on the San Francisco 49ers. But, neither team will have a home field advantage. The game will be played in London. And that got our Freakonomics correspondent Stephen Dubner thinking.

Welcome to the Marketplace Morning Report, Dubner.

STEPHEN DUBNER: Hi there.

CHIOTAKIS: alright, so the Broncos-49ers game, even though it's being played in London, will be played exactly the same as it is here, right?

DUBNER: One key difference. More advertising on the field than NFL typically allows here. But they take it a step further: they put big, fat corporate logos right over the heart on the player's jerseys. Got me to thinking: why doesn't the NFL allow that?

CHIOTAKIS: Yeah, I've always wondered about that too, Stephen. The NFL isn't shy about putting corporate names on stadiums, as we know. Would jersey ads be less valuable in the United States than in, say, Europe?

DUBNER: I don't think so. Top teams in Europe average about $17 million for their jersey sponsorship. I talked to some smart folks here, and they estimated it might be worth about the same. So why pass that up? Why leave that money on the table?

So I asked that to Joe Ellis, the chief operating officer of the Denver Broncos. His answer is essentially "tradition." He also has this to say:

JOE ELLIS: I will tell you that if you did do it, people would get over it very quickly, and would accept it very quickly.

In fact, this season, for first time, the NFL allowed teams to put paid sponsorship on their practice jerseys.

CHIOTAKIS: So then what's stopping this from happening?

DUBNER: The NFL doesn't want to cannibalize revenue from existing streams. The other thing is that the Corporate sponsorship landscape is complicated. I talked to Keith Gordon from the marketing arm of the NFL Players' Association and he makes the important point that big-name players have their own sponsorship deals..

KEITH GORDON: If an NFL player has a sponsor logo on his jersey, it could simply prevent him from acquiring another deal with another competitor.

So, Steve, you've seen Peyton Manning on all those TV ads for Sony. What if his time now -- the Indianapolis Colts -- what if they started sporting Panasonic jerseys? Now all of a sudden, if I'm Peyton, I don't look like an ideal sponsor to Sony anymore. And it seems to look like the money that might flow directly to me is now being spread among my 52 teammates. Robbing Peyton to pay Paul. And then there's the issue of how that money would be split between the players and the teams. The league and the players union aren't on the best of terms right now. There's a lock pending for March so they're not so likely to see eye-to-eye on something like this kind of new dough.

CHIOTAKIS: Stephen Dubner, Freakonomics correspondent, thanks.

DUBNER: My pleasure, thanks Steve.

CHIOTAKIS: Head to freakonomicsradio.com to check out more stories -- or download the podcast.

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