Sabre Thinking

31 Jul / NBA’s Plan to Sell Jersey Ad Space Generates Profits and Criticism

Be on the look out for a new addition to the 2013-2014 NBA lineup! Jersey advertisements are now pending final approval. At a press conference on July 19th, the NBA Board of Governors fielded questions from the media concerning the proposed 2.5 by 2.5 inch sponsorship patch, to be positioned in the upper right-hand corner of the jersey. This marketing measure would be a first for the four major US leagues; although jersey advertising is common among European uniforms and is practiced in the U.S. by the WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association). NBA deputy commissioner, Adam Silver, stated that they hope to have guidelines in place even before the 2012-2013 season to allow for the sale of advertisements and manufacturing time.

For a sport that has recently produced a better return on investment than baseball, football, or hockey; the NBA stands to generate large profits if sponsor logos do make it onto the official uniform. Early estimates suggest that the league could generate upwards of $100 million; one study found that exposure from just the 3.5% space a logo occupies on the screen would produce over $30 million in TV exposure. Exact figures would be based on a to-be-developed pricing scheme where high-profile team and player jersey ads would cost more than others. Outside of the arena, there would be additional benefits for sponsors with the retail sale of branded jerseys.

While the Board’s statements indicate that most NBA officials are in favor of jersey ads, the same cannot be said for all fans. Critics have said the “NBA is selling its soul by selling jersey ads,” and a regional survey by Boston’s NESN found 85% of those polled thought it was a “bad idea.” Fans are cautious of corporate involvement in professional sports; many are drawing comparisons to the recognizable commercial presence in NASCAR, which includes ads on cars and uniforms. NASCAR is in turn the highest grossing sport, but NBA fans question whether this revenue may come at the expense of the game’s credibility.

Is there a benefit to fans? It could prevent further lockouts, like the 2011 five-month standoff over revenue distribution. If the NBA is generating more profits, it may potentially ease the concerns that instigated the fall-out last year. Following the sentiments of the Board of Directors, jersey advertisements could only better the NBA. What do you think?

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