The NBA recently approved a three-year pilot program that will allow for a 2.5-inch by 2.5-inch advertising space on team jerseys to be sold to sponsors who can then put their logo. The NBA have already experimented with this in the 2016 All-Star game which featured team jerseys with the Kia logo on a the front left opposite the jersey manufacturer’s logo.
Teams will have to sell this space on their own and will have to put half of the revenue generated in the league’s revenue sharing pool. According to industry estimates, this initiative will generate $150 million in additional annual revenue. Obviously, teams with a more global presence and probable playoff appearances will end up selling the space for higher rates, but that being said, this will help do wonders for some smaller, less successful teams.
Financially speaking, this is a welcome addition to the league; however, one also has to analyze what fans are thinking and social media sentiment around this issue is rather divisive. We gather that the the outrage is gathered around two main issues, namely –
Sponsor logos will be intrusive and will make affect the aesthetics of the jerseys, making them look more like motorsport overalls.
While soccer teams have had sponsor branding on their jerseys for a long time, it makes sense for them considering they have only commercial break during half time. On the other hand, NBA games have more breaks, including timeouts.
While these concerns are legitimate, here are our thoughts on the matter –
When speaking about aesthetics, one thing that fans have to remember is that this will be a rather small patch and will not be intrusive. Soccer jerseys naturally allowed for significant sponsor branding simply because club logos have traditionally been in the form of small crests placed on the top left of the jersey. Because NBA jerseys have never accounted for significant branding before, it would mean that the team’s branding would have to be reduced. And that is not something that any team is going to stand for, simply because teams have been present for a long time during which, they have built up a significant amount of brand value. Any major change to jersey designs would result in a drop in that value and that’s not what any team wants. So fans can rest easy that the addition of a small patch will be done tastefully and will definitely not result in the jersey looking like motorsport overalls.
Secondly, ask any person who is a fan of both soccer and basketball (and we have a few within BWA), basketball is definitely a much easier sport to watch either live, or on the television, simply because the commercial breaks allow for more opportunities to get up from one’s seat and not miss out on the in-game action. The risk of leaving one’s couch to fetch a cold one from the fridge is definitely a lot higher in soccer.
Lastly, if fans are still worried about having their team jerseys with logos stitched on, they have to remember that the NBA’s merchandise division will still be selling the jerseys without the patches. The jerseys with the sponsor branding will only be available through the teams’ official store.
The final word: Change such as this has always been inevitable and in time, the fans will get used to it and will grow to accept it. And to this, we’d like to give the example of FC Barcelona. The Catalan soccer team has some of the most loyal and devoted fans amongst all sports teams in the world and had always snubbed jersey sponsorship till 2006 when they signed a deal with UNICEF. As part of the deal, the club also donated €1.5 million to fund, which seemed to appease the purists who were extremely opposed to the deal. After this deal expired, the club signed a deal with Qatar Sports Investment worth €150 million. This decision was met with surprisingly little opposition from the club’s fans. Thus, in time, this phenomenon will also gain acceptance from the league’s fans.