NBA commissioner Adam Silver has only been on the job for two months, but he has already found a pet project to consume the beginning of his reign. And that project is the introduction of sponsored uniforms.
According to AdAge.com's Michael McCarthy, Silver attended the 2014 IMG World Congress of Sports presented by SportsBusiness Daily/Journal and was asked if he felt the NBA would introduce ad space on jerseys within the next five years; to which he answered "definitely." He quickly thought about it and changed his answer to: "Most likely."
If this talk sounds familiar, it is because Silver said much the same thing during 2014's All-Star Weekend, per ESPN's Arash Markazi:
Adam Silver says sponsorship on jerseys will ultimately happen. "It makes good business sense."— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) February 16, 2014
Clearly, the new commissioner believes that sponsored jerseys will be on the backs of NBA players at some point in the near future. It's no longer a question of if, but when. And while Silver is not yet fully committed to the five-year timetable, he seems to view it as a near certainty.
Silver's interest in sponsored jerseys shouldn't come as a surprise. He has been openly discussing the idea since at least 2011, when he claimed that advertising space on jerseys could be worth $100 million, via ESPN.
Cork Gaines of Business Insider believes the league's recent commitment to sleeved jerseys might have been designed with ads in mind:
In addition to the increase in surface area on the front compared to a traditional jersey, the design includes fewer contrasting colors and less area being covered by graphics, lettering, and numbers. It would seem that this is exactly what you would want to change if you were going to eventually add an advertisement patch to the front of the uniforms.
Interestingly enough, Silver also pointed to the growing popularity of the English Premiere league in the U.S. as an indicator that American fans will tolerate sponsored jerseys, according to McCarthy.
Indeed, the growth in American soccer viewership may have helped soften the resistance of many American fans. Youngsters growing up watching the Premier League are already used to the idea of massive sponsor logos splashed across the chest of their favorite players, and Major League Soccer has already adopted that European style.
Lets face it: No professional sports league is going to turn down that much advertising money. Tradition means nothing in the face of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.
Sponsored jerseys are coming.