The NBA is selling out to outside corporations?
In a move third-year NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called "inevitable" at the 2014 IMG World Congress of Sports, the league will begin a three-year pilot program in the 2017-18 season to allow teams to sell a corporate logo on its jerseys. The deal made the NBA the first of the four major U.S. sports leagues—NFL, MLB and NHL being the others—to put ads on regular game-day jerseys.
The advertising space will be sold as a 2.5-by 2.5-inch patch, worn on the upper part of the jersey.
The Philadelphia 76ers became the first team to sell an advertisement on a jersey when they agreed to a three-year, $5 million-per-year contract with StubHub this past May. The contract also gave the team an option to extend the contract if the NBA continues the pilot, according to Darren Rovell of ESPN.
Following Philadelphia's deal, the Sports Business Daily Global Journal reported the Sacramento Kings landed the same deal with Blue Diamond Growers.
The NBA should have done without the move. A global giant, the league has plenty of other areas from which it may earn revenue. Teams can build upon corporate relationships by placing advertisements around the arena or on specific items to be sold or given away at games. There is no need to compromise the jerseys themselves with distracting corporate logos or brand names.
However, the deal is not without precedent. The MLS and WNBA prominently feature ad space across the chest of jerseys. These partnerships exist in leagues around the world and provide an impressive source of added revenue. The sports marketing firm Repucom projects teams in Europe’s top soccer leagues generate $930 million from jersey sponsors this year, 13 percent more revenue than last season, according to Forbes.
"There is no need to compromise the jerseys themselves with distracting corporate logos or brand names."
Though there is financial incentive, the NBA shouldn’t continue its pilot program as it damages the average fan’s relationship with their favorite team and ultimately hurts the integrity of the league.
What if your favorite team partnered up with a company you don't agree with? A scenario like this could pit a fan’s values against allegiances to a team.
Last season, the NBA featured a Kia Motors logo on its All-Star jerseys. The NBA should continue this rather than make sweeping changes affecting each team. Each aspect of All-Star weekend is already intensely commercialized with sponsors ranging from Kia to Verizon, according to the Sports Business Journal. If the league can limit this blatant ad exposure to one weekend, they may be able to salvage some sense of sincerity in its commitment to fans.
As NBA fans, one of the most important elements of the game is the loyalty we have to a specific city or team. The passion we hold for “our” team, is what drives us to watch. It is imperative we voice our displeasure to the NBA. Social media is a powerful platform from which anyone can directly and indirectly communicate with NBA representatives. Let them know a loyal fan base is in peril. While doing so, fans must refrain from purchasing jerseys featuring advertisements.
These actions may help the league realize its fans view selling advertisement space on jerseys as cheapening the NBA’s brand.