The NBA announced last week that team jerseys would display advertisements for the first time beginning in 2017-18. It's a new concept for sports in America, despite it being prevalent in sports outside of the US.
The initial proposal is for a pilot term of three years. The advertisements initially will be on a 2.5 inch-by-2.5 inch patch. Which should not be overly eye-catching or intrusive for observers watching. Jerseys sold to fans will be available minus the advertisements, too. So there is an obvious effort on behalf of the NBA to make sure all sides are as content as possible.
Projections say the sponsorships will be worth around $100 million per year. Which is relatively small fry compared to the new NBA TV deal which kicks in from next season. Reports suggest the TV deal is worth a staggering $24 billion over the course a nine-year contract. Still, a potential $100 million yearly advertising revenue stream could not be ignored any longer.
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Basketball will indeed be the first American sport to dip their toes into such waters. The success of the venture will likely dictate whether other US sports soon follow, too. It's a bold play by commissioner Adam Silver and the NBA, and that, at least, should be applauded. The backlash alone tells you that.
NBA fans have grown accustomed to their team having a clean, minimal look. The team's jersey is seen as a symbol of the club. Many might feel it should remain scared, pure and free of outside branding. All that has ever been on the jersey of their favourite team has been what really needs to be on there: the club logo, the NBA logo and the player's name and number on the back. That's it. But not for much longer.
The NBA is a business. They are exploring every potential revenue stream that is available to them. It is the way of the sporting world in the 21st century.
As a fan of the game, financial figures may not be of particular interest. But as a member of an NBA front office, they're a main concern. It's your job. Who wouldn't be happy if all sports had the option to be left advert-free?
Not just the team's uniform but little to no adverts on TV in between games could be received well, too. However, a move towards advertisements being on NBA team's jerseys was, in many ways, inevitable. Probably overdue, even.
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Now that jersey advertising is set to commence, however, it's vital the NBA also knows where to draw the line. As time goes by and more opportunities become available, that may become harder to do. Perhaps the Association can take heed from other sporting brands around the world that have already travelled this particular road?
Football teams the world over - including the MLS in the States - explore shirt sponsorships and have done so for a long, long time. Premier League giants Manchester United reportedly earn £47 million ($67 million) a year from their sponsorship deal with Chevrolet. The NBA is projecting even higher figures.
The money has escalated dramatically since shirt sponsorships in football started more than 25 years ago. The size of the actual sponsor's logo is relatively big now, but at least the number of sponsors has remained reasonable. Basically, one per team. There's no reason why the association should be any different.
The league will not be alone in their intrigue of this advertising experiment, either. Other American sports will be thankful the basketball world has taken the plunge first. It may initially be a pilot program, but it will also be a trial run of sorts for the NHL, MLB and maybe even the obscenely lucrative NFL.
It's a door they would all surely have liked to have opened themselves, but were probably put off by the backlash that was sure to follow. The NBA have now taken that flack for them. Once the sponsorship deals are secured and the financial figures are eventually out in the open, though, the question of whether any other American sports will follow might be a redundant one. It may only be a question of who's next.
Ultimately, the only real concern moving forward should be regarding where this all potentially goes in the long term. How much bigger will the advertisements become? Will there ever be two, three or even four sponsors displayed on an item of clothing?
In an extreme scenario, NBA shorts could end up looking like a professional boxer's fight shorts. Now the pilot is official, though, these are all things that can now be speculated on. And people will speculate. Wildly, in some cases. It's the way of the world.
But for what is known so far, it's been a rational and fair start to a controversial subject. It might take a little time to get used to. But the NBA are just doing what the NBA should do.