Even with the hubbub of the summer Olympics and free agency period, most everyone has heard the dark swirlings that the NBA has been considering moving towards ads on player jerseys. Although there's some question as to what form these ads will take, most seem to think that they'll take the form of a small "sponsorship patch" near the player's left shoulder. Many believe that the NBA could receive as much as $100 million in sponsorship revenue.
There's already some contemporary examples of what ads on jerseys may end up looking like. With all the success David Stern has had with turning the NBA into a global brand, is the NBA board of governors making a big mistake with this initiative?
In most professional sports in the modern world, jerseys and uniforms are already advertising to you. Whether it be a tiny Reebok, Adidas or Nike logo on a shoe or a pad or a ball, that branding exists, and is targeted at you, the fan. This advertising, however, is in part allowed because those corporations manufacture the uniform being worn. Most would say that on American jerseys, at least, the corporate advertising isn't overly obtrusive. The question now seems to be - how much more advertising will these fans tolerate?
Many people point to the fact that despite the number of ads now festooning the jerseys of international "football" players, that sport remains the world's most popular. But those people are missing a key difference between international football and American sports - the fact that in international football matches, there are no commercial breaks (except at halftime). The nature of international football, where two 45 minute halves are played with only a short, 15 minute halftime break makes squeezing in advertisements quite difficult. There simply aren't enough stoppages in play - as there are in baseball, American football and the NBA - to create effective advertisements and bring in advertising revenue from commercial breaks. Hence, jerseys plastered with "Fly Emirates", and if there's enough room, the team logo in the upper left corner.
So, international football fans deal with annoyingly in-your-face advertisements on team jerseys in exchange for (nearly) commercial-free games, whereas American sports fans get pristine player jerseys but must suffer through commercial breaks in the broadcast during timeouts and breaks in play. Each group of fans seem largely okay with the current arrangement, though many American pro sports fans grumble about the volume of advertising that has continued to increase across sports.
Now, the NBA board of governors seems to be asking fans to accept both - player jersey advertisements on top of commercial breaks.
I personally feel that American jerseys are amongst the most pristine and eye-catching in the world, in large part because they aren't being covered with ads from GoDaddy, Doritos, Mobil and your predatory investment bank of choice. Whether it's a vintage rainbow skyline or a modern powder blue, a Nuggets jersey simply wouldn't be the same with intrusive corporate logos throughout. A "clean" jersey, to me, represents not only the beauty of the design, but also the integrity of the game. I always feel a little grossed out when I see NASCAR driver outfits or international football jerseys and am having corporate advertisements thrust into my eyes like poorly-designed daggers. Where does the slippery slope end? Does a league that grosses upwards of $4.3 billion dollars in revenue really need a comparatively piddling $100 million dollars? Of course it doesn't, but as we saw in the recent CBA negotiations, NBA ownership has been taking advice from Gordon Gekko.
In some ways, it feels silly to be concerned with something as minor as an advertisement on a jersey. There are far more pressing issues the NBA and its fans should be concerned with, like the increasing amount of flopping or incorporating better instant-replay rules. At the same time, in a modern world where the corporation is king, it's difficult to not have a visceral reaction against yet another intrusion into the sanctity of sport.
I suppose at the very least, it might be fairly amusing to see Kevin Durant potentially end up like this. But when and if the day comes that ads become forever a part of the NBA uniform, I'll never purchase another piece of NBA gear again.
What's your take, Stiffs?
NBA selling its soul by selling jersey ads - ESPN contributor DJ Gallo writes a succinct piece on the volume of ads that already exist in the NBA.
Revenue from NBA jersey ads likely to vary - If sponsorships are sold on a team by team basis, revenue will not be split equally. Big market teams will, once again, profit more from this arrangement than small market teams. Surprise!
Fans dislike NBA's uniform advertising plan - A recent ESPN poll found more than 71% of respondents did not want to see jerseys with ads.
NBA Jersey Ads Likely in 2013 - A depressing Bloomberg piece states that we are likely to see 2.5 inch by 2.5 inch "sponsor patches" on jerseys above the heart on team uniforms - pending owner approval. Gross.