The rumors have been confirmed. The NBA will soon become the first top-tier American sports league to place ads on player jerseys. While the practice is common across the world in soccer (football), rugby and other sports, to date the only major American sports that allowed display ads on the “players” have been Major League Soccer and NASCAR. That’s about to change.
Beginning in the 2017-18 season, the NBA will deck their players out in corporate logos. Likely not as garish and omnipresent as auto racing, but still a step in a direction that other sports leagues have so far refused to walk.
The program is slated as a three-year pilot allowing 2.5-inch square patches tailored into the uniform. These patches will display corporate logos, situated on the player’s left shoulder…replacing the NBA logo, which appears to be, literally, selling out to a higher bidder. Jerseys will still have the NBA logo, on the back, where they’ve been for the past couple of seasons.
According to the deal, teams will be responsible for selling sponsorships to companies and will be expected to split the revenue with the league, whose cut will be added to the league’s revenue sharing pool.
Like some other leagues, the NBA has a revenue sharing setup which allows teams in smaller markets to remain solvent, giving more popular and profitable teams someone to play.
Fans hoping to buy the sponsored jerseys – will there be any? – will have to buy them directly from the team store and at the team’s sole discretion.
What will fan reaction be to this change? While there may be some haters, the general consensus is they will take this in stride. Replica jerseys won’t have the sponsors like they do in soccer, so they really won’t notice the change much anyway. Even those who are initially put off by the logos will eventually come to ignore them. They understand, after all, that their team is in it for the money, and more cash puts a better product on the floor and better facilities for the fans.
But don’t expect the price of beer and hot dogs to drop anytime soon.
Ronn Torossian is the CEO of 5WPR; the leading NYC Sports and Entertainment PR Agency.