Dave Feit: Ads Are Coming to a Gridiron Near You

Now that the NCAA has given the green light, it’s just a question of how soon Nebraska and other Big Ten schools will turn their football fields into billboards.
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Under a new rule change for the 2024 season, schools can now place “commercial sponsor advertisements” on football fields for regular-season games.

Advertisements can be placed on the 50-yard line, and two more smaller ads somewhere else on the field.

In its press release, the NCAA provided two reasons for this change. Honestly, the first one (“align regular-season games in home stadiums with those already existing advertisement allowances for games played in the postseason bowl games and neutral-site games”) makes little sense to me… and I have a degree in advertising.

It doesn’t matter, because the second reason for the change – providing “an additional revenue opportunity” for schools – is all you need to know.

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“Revenue generation” is the hot phrase within college athletics, replacing “NIL”, “collectives”, and “new facilities”. The settlement of antitrust lawsuits (totaling $2.77 billion) and starting revenue sharing with student athletes in 2025 (upwards of $20 million a year for a school like Nebraska) has university presidents and athletic directors looking under the couch cushions for any nickel they can find.

Schools have had an increasingly hard time saying “no” when there’s money on the line. Money is the reason you can buy a beer in many college stadiums. Money is the reason the Big Ten is now an 18-team, coast to coast conference. It’s the reason why football games are on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday nights, and all day long on Saturdays – including a Rutgers game at USC that will kick off at 11 p.m. New Jersey time.

And money is the reason why the next unthinkable barrier – advertising patches on uniforms and/or helmets – isn’t that far off.

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The question is not “will Nebraska and other Big Ten schools put ads on their field?” The question is when, and how quickly does it happen.

In his short time as Nebraska’s AD, Troy Dannen has shown that he is well aware of the changing landscape, and knows he has to delay big expenses while generating new revenue streams.

Dannen probably will be quick to point out that the home of Nebraska basketball has had advertisements on the court since Day 1. Ironically, in a building named after a financial institution (Pinnacle Bank Arena), there are logos for a different bank (First National Bank of Omaha) on the court.

But to me, football is different. Even though you’ll see dozens of fixed signs inside Memorial Stadium, and an endless loop of ads on the HuskerVision screens, the field has always been about the game – not selling checking accounts or insurance.

Maybe one of Dannen’s predecessors (such as Tom Osborne or Trev Alberts) would have drawn the line at ads on the field. But Dannen has said on multiple occasions that the line he’s concerned about is NU’s bottom line.

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Which company will get that first on-field logo at Nebraska? Having already resigned myself to corporate logos, I think the “best case” scenario would be adding two Adidas logos between the 20 and 30 yard lines, opposing the B1G logo. Nebraska’s apparel partner is at least related to the game, so their logo – which already appears in a dozen or so places on every player – makes sense.

Beyond that? Here is the current list of Nebraska’s “Official Partners”. I’d be willing to bet the first ad is one of these 15 logos*.

*Memo to the folks at Akrs: If /when Nebraska switches to a grass field, putting your logo on the most famous sod in the state could be a great way to sell some John Deere equipment.

But if the Husker Corporate Sponsorship folks want to get creative, I have some suggestions.

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Dave Feit


Dave Feit began writing for HuskerMax in 2011. Follow him on Twitter (@feitcanwrite) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/FeitCanWrite)