NBA owners have agreed to let teams sell advertising on uniforms in a three-year trial, providing another potential revenue stream expected to bring in $150 million.
"Jersey sponsorships provide deeper engagement with partners looking to build a unique association with our teams and the additional investment will help grow the game in exciting new ways," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement Friday.
Scott Soshnick of Bloomberg News first reported the owners' decision to allow the ads and said the move is expected to generate around $150 million total revenue, half kept by the teams and half placed in a revenue-sharing pool.
It's a change that's been in the works for awhile. More than two years ago, Silver said corporate logos on jerseys were "inevitable" and explained his thoughts on the potential fan reaction, per Michael McCarthy of Advertising Age:
It just creates that much more of an opportunity for our marketing partners to get that much closer to our fans and to our players. It gives us an opportunity just to have deeper integration when it comes to those forms of sponsorship. ... Increasingly as we see Champions League and English Premier League televised in the U.S., I think it's going to become more acceptable and more commonplace for our fans as well.
Silver is right to point out that the growing infiltration of European soccer into the American sports landscape will take away some of the shock factor. The main sponsor usually takes up a major portion of the jersey overseas, and it's considered normal.
That said, it will probably still take some getting used to for American fans, even if the current advertisements are much smaller than what you see on soccer jerseys. NBA jerseys have typically been pretty clean with the city name or team nickname and number worked into the color scheme. The new sponsorship logo patches will be 2.5 inches by 2.5 inches on the front left of the jerseys opposite the forthcoming Nike logos (the shoe company replaces Adidas as the jersey provider in 2017).
But, in the end, it all comes down to the teams' bottom lines, as Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer explained:
The biggest question is how this will affect the other leagues moving forward. Are the NFL, MLB and NHL going to move quickly to pass similar measures, or will they wait to see how it works for the NBA before making a decision? It's hard to pass up additional revenue options.
Ultimately, this likely represents the NBA getting out ahead of the crowd, which could allow the league to lock in advertisers before the other leagues join the fray. The others will probably follow suit in some way soon.