NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The NBA will begin selling jersey sponsorships in 2017-18, becoming the first major North American sports league to put partners’ logos on players’ uniforms.
The three-year trial was approved Friday by NBA owners and will take effect when the league’s contract with Nike begins. The patches will appear on the front left of the jersey, opposite Nike’s logo, and measure about 2½ by 2½ inches.
Logos appear on international and MLS soccer jerseys, and many athletes in individual sports wear their sponsors’ attire in competition.
Commissioner Adam Silver had said this step was inevitable as an additional revenue generator. WNBA teams already have logos, and NBA clubs were wearing them on practice jerseys.
“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,” Silver said in a statement. “We’re always thinking about innovative ways the NBA can remain competitive in a global marketplace, and we are excited to see the results of this three-year trial.”
Last year, the NBA made more than $700 million in sponsorships. The jersey ads are estimated to add another $100 million. The profits will be split 50-50 between each team and the league.
Silver said each team will have the ability to find their own sponsors.
“The team should be in control of this asset, that the idea here was it should be a team’s decision whether or not they want to place a logo on their jersey,” Silver said.
Major League Soccer teams began selling jersey sponsorships in 2007, and they generate more than $6 million annually in revenues. In European soccer, ads on jerseys are more prominent than the team logo itself.
Adidas enters the final year of his contract as the NBA’s official outfitter next season. When Nike takes over, its logo will become the first on league’s jerseys.
The sponsor patch will be adjusted to fit the dimensions of each sponsor’s logo. It won’t appear in retail versions of the jerseys, but clubs can sell jerseys with sponsor patches in their team stores.
Sports marketing expert Brian Cristiano said he believes once the threshold has been crossed, it’s not going away.
“Whether or not it turns into the full brand across their chest like European soccer leagues, I don’t know,” he told CBS2’s Otis Livingston. “It could happen, or maybe two or three sponsors, or they sponsor the shorts and the jersey, and there’s a sock sponsor. It could happen, because I think once they see the viability of the sponsorship and the dollars coming in, the registers start to ring there, right? That’s the reality.”
Fans in New York were split on whether the ads would bother them.
“I am very against it,” said Daniel Weiss, of Brooklyn. “They can put logos on the practice uniforms, they can put it on the court, on the benches. Just the jersey should not have them.”
“As long as the sponsorships don’t water down the integrity of the actual game then I don’t think it necessarily hurts,” said Tosia Fawibina, of Manhattan.
“Of course New York’s always going to have funding for big businesses, but I believe some of these upcoming, small businesses, I think it would be important,” said Corey Bundy, of Manhattan. “Everyone gets their shot at shining on a New York Knicks jersey.”
Twitter users, meanwhile, had fun with the idea of ads on jerseys.