Dwight Howard could be wearing a new uniform in six days. In the near future, Howard and the rest of the league could be in new uniforms, uniforms adorned with sponsorship patches like the doctored photo accompanying this post.
A study released last year by Horizon Media calculated that a brand logo across the middle of an NBA team’s jersey occupying 3.5 percent of the TV screen would produce $31.18 million in exposure value.
However, the study did not factor in ancillary exposure on highlights and news shows, nor did it account for any online exposure.
“Jersey ads are one of the last pieces of inventory that club marketers haven’t been able to sell, and for a local sponsor they could be a real boon, since it would give them exposure with a team at home and away,” said Michael Neuman, managing partner of Horizon’s Scout Sports and Entertainment.
Neuman is right. Sure, it'll look strange, seeing brand names making their way onto the clean designs we've grown accustomed to, but there isn't any real harm here. It's not like this would be the first domino to fall, or the beginning of the end, with respect to the league soaking up sponsorship dollars wherever it can.
This would just be the biggest and most prominent example. This moment has likely been approaching in earnest since Blake Griffin jumped over the Kia in the dunk contest that Kia sponsored a season ago. Look at press conferences, where players can't step up to the podium until the appropriate brand of water or sports drink is sitting in front of them. Almost everything that could possibly be sponsored already is.
Despite the push in conversation, the league is taking extra care in making it clear that whatever decision is made, it will be done with careful consideration.
"It is something we are wrestling with,” said an NBA team executive from a large market. “There are challenges, and the question is whether there is a way to do it differently. From potential sponsors, there’s an appetite.
“Without a doubt, there’s already interest,” said Mark Tatum, NBA executive vice president of global marketing partnerships, outside the league’s annual All-Star Technology Summit that was held at Orlando’s Waldorf-Astoria. “It’s certainly not automatic, but if we do it, it would be a big deal, so we are spending a lot of time evaluating.”
Despite the cautious language in the quotes given by the league, it seems inevitable that this is going to happen. It's just a matter of when. Knowing this, rather than debate over whether we think it's a wise move or not, we should instead focus on getting used to the idea.
And, we will. After upping my dosage of Euroleague watching during the lockout this summer, I got used to the jerseys. It didn't take long for me to forget about the sponsorship displayed on the jerseys and focus on the athletes wearing them instead.
When and if this day comes, you'll be okay. It won't change the game we love. It won't cheapen it as much as you probably think. The jerseys will just look a little weird. Look at it this way: Even with sponsorships, the jerseys won't look as bad as some of the uniforms we've seen teams go through over the years.