Brand and corporate sponsorship on jerseys and kits is not uncommon — though it has yet to creep into US professional sports aside from apparel manufacturers themselves (i.e. - Nike swoosh on NFL jerseys). That could likely all change soon, as the National Basketball Association (NBA) board of governors is expected to give the go-ahead on ads being placed on jerseys, starting with the 2017-18 season. ESPN first reported on the vote, which is to take place tomorrow.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver, in speaking to broadcaster Rachel Nichols, per USA Today, noted that the advent of ads on jerseys was inevitable and a good source of revenue.
“One of the reasons we want to do it is that it creates an additional investment in those companies in the league…the amplification we get from those sponsors, those marketing partners of the league, who want to attach to our teams and our players,” said Silver.
Additionally, bringing in new partners, according to Silver, can expand the NBA brand overall.
“Once they put their name on the jerseys, they'll then use their media to promote the NBA extensively. That's probably the greatest reason for us to do it,” noted Silver.
The ads themselves won’t be as overt or intrusive as one sometimes expects from these types of deals, with the ads covering around a 5 square inch space on the left shoulder, similar to how Kia was presented on the NBA All-Star game jerseys in Toronto. Nike, and its iconic swoosh, will be on the left shoulder. At present, the current apparel sponsor’s logo, Adidas, is nowhere to be seen on game jerseys.
“Its not surprising to me. NASCAR, golf, tennis and many international sports leagues have already put ads on their jerseys,” said Brian Berger, host and founder of the nationally-syndicated radio show Sports Business Radio. “The NBA is an innovative league and I am sure they will find a way to do ads on the player jerseys in a tasteful way. There is too much money on the table at this point for real estate on NBA jerseys to ignore.”
If approved, individual teams will sell the new jersey space and it is expected that the revenue will be split, with half going to the teams and half going to the league’s revenue-share. Additionally, athletes will see some benefit as it is considered basketball-related income.
Another professional league, the National Hockey League (NHL) of North America is also considering bringing jersey ads into the mix. Adidas has become the league’s official jersey supplier (supplanting Reebok) and is considering a similar move, according to a league source who told TSN’s Rick Westhead, “If you’re already deciding on a major NHL jersey overhaul, maybe with Adidas striping on the jerseys, then it seems like it would be a good time to introduce the ads, if you plan to do it anyway,”