Newly appointed NBA Commissioner Adam Silver isn’t taking long in terms of trying to make a major impact on the NBA brand. Silver recently announced that it was inevitable that the NBA will soon have advertising logos on their NBA jerseys. It’s a nice thought to have and it seems logical, but can it truly work?
Silver has his mind in the right frame. It seems like a simple sports business situation with an equally simple solution. In order for a sports organization to succeed, they are going to need to find sponsors. Teams spend the entire year trying to find new sponsors to purchase signs in the arena or have their name associated with a certain in-game event. So why wouldn’t a team try to sell ad space on their jerseys? The number of corporations begging for that spot on the uniform would be astronomical and the amount of revenue could also completely change the course of the NBA’s future. However, can we be sure that this would change the NBA for the best?
We have already seen soccer leagues all over the world place ads on their jerseys and they seem to have no backlash. The WNBA now has teams sponsor their jerseys in a move that some could say help save the sport. However, some Major League Baseball teams tried to place ads on their batting helmets during spring training several years ago in hopes of making some extra money. That positive result never came to fruition and the ads were ultimately nixed.
The NBA has to take the fan’s opinion into account here as they will ultimately be the ones that decide whether or not the ads continue to run. Will they be the ones that decides which sponsor should be on the jersey? Absolutely not. But they are the ones that purchase the jerseys. The amount of revenue the NBA makes from jersey sales will not be matched by their jersey advertisement deals. It is simply impossible to imagine that happening. So if the fans decide they like the jerseys better without the ads, they will either stop buying jerseys all together or go to a “black market” and find an outlet that makes jerseys without the logo. In that sense, it would be more logical for the NBA to stay away from the jersey ads.
Either way, I do not believe that the NBA is either going to make it or break it by either going with jersey ads or staying away from them. The sport continues to grow in the United States as well as all over the world and should not have a problem financially. I also do not believe that this deal is as “imminent” as people are reporting it to be. In the early 2000’s, former Commissioner David Stern said it was likely that the NBA would have a team stationed out of North America. That plan still hasn’t come to fruition and it does not look likely that it will anytime soon. The jersey ad campaign is obviously a much smaller and far more feasible project, but still cannot and will not be taken lightly. We have seen Silver move to the sleeved jerseys, will he continue to alter them with ads? Only time will tell.