Ads on NBA Jerseys: An Inevitability?
ESPN reported last week that the NBA selling advertising space on its jerseys was no closer to becoming a reality since the idea was discussed in 2011. However, the article also makes it very clear that advertising on NBA uniforms will happen eventually.
According to the article, there are two big hitches uniform ads becoming a reality: The fact that teams would be competing with each other for advertisers, and potential advertising conflicts that could arise with the NBA's TV partners, ESPN and TNT.
The former objection doesn't make a lot of sense to me, since there's already advertising sold in-stadium for floor space and wall decorations. Isn't it a safe assumption then that teams are already competing for ad dollars in some capacity? Even if that stuff is all negotiated league-wide by the NBA, rather than by individual teams, I can't imagine that it's universal across all stadiums. After all, say hypothetically an advertiser only has money to advertise in 15 stadiums instead of the full 30. I'm sure that the NBA would let them pick the 15 stadiums of their choosing, probably of the 15 most popular teams since they'd have the best attendance and television rating, because otherwise the NBA would just be turning away money, and that's insane thing that no one does, especially massive entertainment corporations that are openly looking for more revenue streams. I'm sure the actual stadium advertising process is more sophisticated than this, but my point is that teams are probably competing already for advertising dollars based on their quality and fanbase size.
I guess the advertising on uniforms is different in the sense that it ads a marketing element beyond the home team's control. Like if a home team is sponsored by Coke and an away team rolls in with Pepsi uniforms and stomps the home team, Coke probably wouldn't be too excited about that. I think that's a credible objection, but also isn't something directly mentioned in the article as an obstacle to the deal.
The other objection, that uniform ads could cause problems with the league's broadcast partners, makes more sense to me. Exclusivity deals, conflicts of interest, one party undercutting the other, all kinds of things could happen to make on-uniform advertising a headache for teams and the league both. But I also think that these problems all have beneficial counterpoints that could just as easily be a result of the deal. Advertising synergy between uniforms and TV ads, cooperative ad packages where an advertiser could buy more space for less money, there are a bunch of upsides to NBA teams selling advertisements.
Anyway, all of this theoretical blathering is to say that I believe that advertising on NBA uniforms will eventually happen, which is a great thing for the promotional industry. Selling sponsorship space is a popular practice for many athletic promotional tees, from little league tees to 5k races, because it's an easy way to either reduce the cost of the order or raise funds for the end-buyer organization. If a mainstream organization like the NBA picks up on the practice, convincing your clients to do the same will become that much easier.
The proposed uniform ads measure 2.5 by 2.5" and would placed on the fronts of the jerseys. They were valued at $100 million by NBA commissioner Adam Silver in 2011.