I am writing the chapter on history of in-game advertising and decided to track down the evolution of sports games. I picked games made or published by Electronic Arts because the company has some of the most popular franchises, the games sold well, and also because these days the company seems to have a structured approach to selling ad space in their games. Below are screenshots from EA's sports games made during the two decades between 1983-2006.
Dr. J and Larry Bird Go One on One, 1983, Electronic Arts. No ads.
World Tour Golf, 1985, Electronic Arts. No ads.
Earl Weaver Baseball, 1987, Electronic Arts. No ads.
Skate or Die, 1987, Electronic Arts. Ads for fictional products.
John Madden Football, 1988, Electronic Arts. No ads in this first installment in the long and lucrative Madden series.
Kings of the Beach, Electronic Arts, 1988. House ad for EA, Kool Cola (fictional), AVP (association of volleyball professionals), Clue (?), Juan Cuervo (?). The game was released for C64, NES and DOS. Same ads appear across platforms, but are unreadable on C64.
Indianapolis 500: The Simulation, 1989, Electronic Arts. No ads.
Lakers vs. Celtics and the NBA Playoffs, 1989, Electronic Arts. No ads besides the EA Sports banner at the judges' table and NBA team names.
PGA Golf Tour, Electronic Arts, 1990. PGA Tour logo in the shop and on dialog screens. No other ads.
NHL Hockey, Electronic Arts, 1991. It is unlikely but chronologically possible that the "SHARK" board refers to the Shark energy drink. The other boards seem to be mere decorations or ads for fictional products. Two other notable 1991 sports games by EA are John Madden Football II, an upgrade of the 1988 game, and John Madden Football 92, the next installment in the franchise. Neither of them had third-party ads, judging by the screenshots.
NHLPA Hockey, Electronic Arts, 1993. House ad (EA Sports Network, EASN that reads like ESPN) on ice resurfacer. Other games that came out that year - John Madden Football 93 and two basketball games - feature house ads.
Screenshots from a few games by other publishers:
Championship Baseball, 1987, Activision/Gamestar. House ad for Gamestar.
ABC Monday Night Football, 1989, Data East. No ads.
Super Real Basketball, 1990, Sega. House ads on the court.