Late last week, the NBA announced that it would embark on a “three-year pilot program” that would allow individual teams to sell advertising space on their uniforms. Any team can sell a “patch” on its game jerseys that is 2.5” by 2.5” to carry a sponsor’s logo. While sports radio commentary – at least in this area – exploded with this “news”, I think it is only a small step for the NBA. Remember, the NBA has been sporting sponsor logos on their practice jerseys for several years now.
Before addressing the screeches on local sports radio, there was another part of the announcement that caught my attention. Someone in the market research business who has to know a thousand times more than I do about this move estimated that sales of sponsor logos could amount to $120M per year in new revenue for the league. For the moment, assume that figure is absolutely correct. Now ask yourself this:
What exactly might be the final decision on this “pilot program” after three years has gone by?
If you answered that the NBA would cancel it and go back to “blank jerseys” you can write on the blackboard 500 times, “I am a dunderhead!”
If you answered that the NBA will continue the program permanently, you have learned your lessons well.
If you answered that the NBA would find a way to expand the program and sell more than one logo spot per uniform, give yourself a Gold Star.
Meanwhile the angst and the wailing that I endured on sports radio for about 72 hours after the NBA’s announcement was predictable and mainly irrelevant.
What is the world coming to? Don’t those teams make enough money?
Plenty of stuff is “wrong with this world” and none of that “stuff” has to do with NBA players wearing “unsullied uniforms” in their games. Oh, and by the way, owners of sports franchises everywhere never make “enough money”.
Does the NBA want its teams to look like soccer teams where there is no identification of the team and only the identification of the team sponsors?
The NBA probably does not want to remove the team name or the city name from team jerseys; but even if they do, would it change anything fundamental to the game? Boiled down to reality, the games are played by men running around in colored underwear. What verse in The Bible makes that inviolable?
By the way, many soccer teams in Europe use jerseys that never had the team name or city name on them. Many teams were identified by the color scheme of the jersey without any verbiage so the addition of sponsor logos did not “remove” or “obscure” the team name or the city name; it was never there in the first place.
Does the NBA want its teams to look like NASCAR drivers and race cars?
If owners can find sponsors that will pay them millions of dollars for every 6.25 square inches on a jersey, they will happily have their teams look like NASCAR drivers.
Buried in the text of the announcement of this “three-year pilot program”, was a statement that jerseys sold at retail shops would not have the sponsor logo on them at the start of the program but that teams could – if they wanted to – sell logo jerseys in addition to the ones without the logo. That statement warmed the hearts of every marketing troll who works for every NBA team. Think about it for just a moment.
Why do you suppose that teams wear so many different varieties of uniforms in the first place? The answer is that more variety translates into more sales volume. That is why you can go into a sporting goods store and find at least 3 – and probably as many as 5 – different jersey styles/colors for every team. Now, the number of possible jerseys has been doubled by offering each color scheme/style with the sponsor logo and without the sponsor logo. Cha-ching…!
One other tiny reason that the screechers on sports radio should not have been stunned by this development is that the WNBA – the poor relative of the NBA – has been selling sponsor logos on WNBA game uniforms for at least 5 years now. If you do not watch the WNBA and have not seen this for yourself, use Google Images to search for “Phoenix Mercury team jerseys” – just to pick a WNBA team at random.
[Aside: Before anyone hyperventilates about how horrible it would be if this “contagion” should spread to the NFL, please consider that the Pittsburgh Steelers have been wearing a corporate logo on their helmets for decades now. That “thing” on their helmet is the old logo for US Steel; it’s been there a long time; it is a lot bigger than 2.5” X 2.5”.]
Proximal to the NBA’s announcement of this new “cash-grab” – let me call it what it is – there was another report indicating that things are looking up for the NBA in the economic sphere. Looking at the last NBA regular season and the money spent by advertisers on TV advertising for game telecasts, the increase is very significant.
Advertising expenditures for 2014/15 = $329.8M
Advertising expenditures for 2015/16 = $487.8M
That is an increase of 48% year over year!
Here is a link to the report containing more information on this expansion of spending by advertisers over the last year.
Understand, that money does not flow to the NBA directly; that is the money spent by advertisers that goes to networks who televise the various games. Nonetheless, that level of interest on the part of sponsors is indicative of their perceived interest fans have with regard to the NBA. Certainly the suits in the NBA Front Office can look at those figures and begin to plan for a subsequent increase in the television rights once it comes time for a new TV contract to be negotiated.
In addition, if there is indeed that level of fan interest out there and sponsors want to spend money on NBA advertising and promotions, maybe this is the perfect time to start selling logos on jerseys…
Finally, here is a suggestion from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times that shows how colleges might find a way to get a commercial sponsorship for themselves:
“Whitman College in Walla Walla is dropping its ‘Missionaries’ mascot and is taking suggestions for a replacement.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………