The NBA will allow sponsors to place small patches on team jerseys starting in the 2013-14 season, and this is an easy way for the league to increase revenue.
ESPN reported that the NBA Board of Governors approved the uniform change. The article notes the league is using projections from European soccer to estimate a $100 million payday from placing ads on jerseys.
Lance Madden of Forbes.com notes that English Premier League teams netted $178 million from their jersey sponsors in 2010.
CBS Sports’ Ken Berger cites NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver saying the square patches would be 2.5 inches on each side. Madden crunched the numbers using the $100 million estimate and noted that at this rate sponsors would be shelling out $2,710 for each player’s patch every regular-season game.
This is a substantial amount of money for a very small amount of advertising space.
The WNBA has already allowed team sponsors to have their logo as the most prominent symbol on a team’s jersey, just like European soccer teams. None of the four major American sports have allowed any type of advertising until now.
The NBA has found a happy medium with their new plan. Many fans will likely see any move of this nature as distasteful, but plunging into the jersey-ads era with McDonald’s or Toyota plastered on the jerseys instead of a team’s name would have caused significantly more controversy.
The tiny patch will be noticeable, but easy to ignore. The added revenue will be a boost to a league that claimed last summer to have 22 of 30 teams in the red.
The most pressing argument against jersey sponsorships is the break from tradition. Imagining Bill Russell hosting a championship trophy with a Coca-Cola patch on his jersey is strange and uncomfortable. But the NBA and other professional leagues make up a massive industry now, and the proposed patch would not seriously tarnish whatever tradition there is left.
Every arena is named after a corporate sponsor, and every halftime show is brought to you by some multi-billion-dollar company. The change is simply in line with the progression of modern professional sports.
This simply is good business, and the financial benefits outweigh any of the sentimental reasons for not allowing jersey ads.