Uniform advertisements will soon be coming to an NBA jersey near you.
Deal with it.
Commissioner Adam Silver made an appearance on The Dan Patrick Show Wednesday (h/t Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball Talk), at which time he was asked if on-jersey propaganda was "inevitable" and "viable." His response will disappoint those not keen on seeing their favorite team run up and down the floor, courtesy of Budweiser, Pillsbury, Yandex—all right, probably not Yandex—or some other company:
Yes and yes. Maybe it’s because I spent so many years of my two decades here selling the NBA internationally and traveling internationally, but it is so commonplace for soccer clubs around the world and basketball clubs as well outside the United States. In this day and age of non-live programing where people are using their DVR and skipping through commercials it’s just that much more of an opportunity for our sponsors to get that much closer to our game, to be close to our athletes.
Look, this was always going to happen. The writing has been on the wall for a while, and now it's about to be on team uniforms. We can only hope it's done tastefully.
Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher made a case for spurning permanent jersey advertisements in favor of forward-thinking, flex-friendly virtual flyers:
In the meantime, projecting ads on jerseys during free throws or other moments when players are stationary shouldn't be a problem.
The added bonus is the flexibility in how often an ad appears and upon whom. Instead of being locked into one advertiser for an entire season—or going through the awkwardness of having a company name on a team uniform one year and a different one the next—the space could be sold on a game-by-game or player-by-player basis.
Assuming the technology is there—or soon will be—to make this happen, it makes more sense.
Selling ads on a game-by-game or even month-by-month basis opens up new levels of revenue stream for the NBA. If the Association is feeling particularly aggressive, it can auction off space by quarters. We've all watched games where the final five minutes are brought to us by a different company.
Virtual ads increase the possibilities in many different areas, addressing the "age of non-live programming" issue that Silver emphasized. Viewers can still see the ads when players step to the free-throw line, which, when you think about it, is what was always going to happen.
The speed at which players move diminishes visibility of jersey plugs, whether they be projections or authentic. You're not always going to see Sprite's logo on LeBron James' uniform as he sprints from end to end. You'll know it's there, but until he slows or the camera is panned to a different, ultra-close angle, it's not going to be in your face.
Selfishly, for fans and even players, the aesthetic appeal of virtual ballyhoos is obvious.
Jersey advertisements have already made their way to the WNBA, and they aren't pretty. Knowing said advertisements are only temporary and shown at certain points during the game, though, helps minimize the shock and—more importantly—potential disgust factor.
For now, at least, tangible ads seem inevitable. Those against change, the NBA making money, additional means of advertising, etc. won't see it as viable practice, but it is inevitable.
One day, the Los Angeles Lakers could be brought to you by In-N-Out Burger. The New York Knicks could be sponsored by JD & The Straight Shot. Compound W Wart Remover could soon be scrawled across Miami Heat jerseys.
We will all just have to deal with it.