How much is jersey space worth to a corporate sponsor, and is that enough money to give up a 2-inch-by-2-inch area to change tradition in the NBA?
According to the NBA Board of Governors, the possible net gain to the league may be worth the change, according to a meeting in Las Vegas Thursday. Jerseys may have a sponsorship patch stitched onto game-day jerseys as soon as the start of the 2012-13 season.
“I think it’s likely that we’ll do something, implement something, some sort of plan for the fall,” NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said. “I think it’s fair to say that our teams were excited about the opportunity and think there is potentially a big opportunity in the marketplace to put a two-by-two patch on the shoulder of our jerseys.”
The fact that NBA jerseys don’t actually have sleeves – and thus no shoulders – is a funny foresight. We’ll call it the clavicle area. Nonetheless, this marks the apex of a long debate about whether the league should take advantage (read to some as: sell out) of this marketing opportunity, which could be very lucrative. Which brings us to the pros and cons of selling corporate sponsorship logos on NBA jerseys.
PRO: Sponsorships work in other sports leagues.
The same jersey sponsorship method, though slightly altered, worked on the soccer pitch. In 2010, the 20 teams in the English Premier League generated $178 million in revenue from shirt sponsorships. In 2009, WNBA players began to wear patches promoting Bing, LifeLock and Foxwoods Casino. NASCAR is the most notorious for having its sport affiliated with corporate sponsors, and fans regularly purchase apparel that is plastered in sponsor logos.
PRO: Obviously, the NBA could make more money.
Silver said the NBA could fetch about $100 million by selling a patch on jerseys. With 450 players in the NBA, $100 million would mean that a player’s jersey patch would generate roughly $222,222 throughout the 82-game season. This means that the 2-inch-by-2-inch patch would cost the advertiser $2,710 per player, per game. That’s $677.50 per square inch, per game. If that’s not too much for a tiny bit of real estate for a sponsor, it’s certainly worth it to the NBA, especially on the heals of a shortened season, thanks to the 2011 lockout.
CON: Some fans may dislike the sponsor.
As long as a player doesn’t endorse a rival sponsor, he likely won’t care about a 2-inch-by-2-inch patch on his clavicle. If he does endorse a rival sponsor, things could get really messy, especially because the player doesn’t have control over what is on his jersey. But for fans, it could be a different story. It is undetermined whether the corporate logos would be part of consumer-purchased jerseys, but it probably won’t be unless that sponsor shells out a heftier paycheck to the NBA. If a fan bought a Derrick Rose Bulls jersey – which was the top selling NBA jersey in the United States during the 2011-12 season — that corporate logo would obviously be part of the jersey forever once purchased, not just during the 2012-13 season. Fans who are opposed to that sponsor may thus be opposed to buying a jersey, a repercussion the NBA wouldn’t want to face.
PRO/CON: Some say the NBA is selling out.
Until recent years, the big four sports of the United States has prided themselves on being traditional. Sure, rule changes and play styles alter from decade to decade, but selling sponsorships on jerseys is an act of selling out to many critics. When it comes down to it, however, this is a business, and changes sometimes need to be made when running a business in order to make more money.