It’s been a big week in NBA news, but it wasn’t Carmelo Antthony’s pending free agency, or even the rampant trade rumors that stirred my attention. For me, the news of the Charlotte Hornets jerseys removing the iconic NBA logo was really what shocked me.
When noted jersey aficionado Paul Lukas of Uni-Watch did some sleuthing on why the change was made, he stumbled upon a new league rule that will be in play next season: NBA logo to move to back of all team jerseys. While it may seem like a minor stylistic change to casual fans, basketball junkies like you and I know that what this really means is that the league is preparing to sell ads on jerseys. You don’t have to look far to deduce that because if you were paying attention, the NBA has been quietly preparing to do this for some time now.
Here’s the proof:
• In 2008: The WNBA debuted McDonalds ads on the front of all team jerseys.
• In 2009: The WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury signed a deal with LifeLock to replace their entire front name on the jersey, as horrifically seen here.
• In 2011: The NBA D League was next to allow teams to have BBVA Bank ads on jerseys.
• In 2012: Adam Silver, then Deputy Commissioner, hosted league owners to a presentation that displayed mannequins with future jersey mock-ups that revealed three different iterations of corporate sponsored jerseys. The first jersey was one with the team stripped away and replaced by a corporate name. The second was one with the team name still on the jersey but with a corporate name beneath it. The third was one we are probably seeing now with the Hornets; a corporate logo near the jersey strap.
If you don’t see the trend here, then just take it from Adam Silver who was interviewed by Ad Age, an advertising trade publication, earlier this year about the possibility of jersey ads:
“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 Champion’s 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”
During that interview when asked on when we can expect jersey ads, Silver said he expects it to happen within five years, so you can pretty much confirm that the stylistic changes happening to the jerseys are nothing more than a move in preparation for future corporate sponsors. That speculation hasn’t exactly been embraced by fans, and you can’t really blame those that are upset by this when you see how ghastly some Euro league jerseys look. Actually, you can just look at how bad some of the WNBA jerseys look.
I don’t think the league would ever approve of team jerseys looking like NASCAR stock cars, but I’m not as rattled by corporate jersey sponsorships as others seem to be. Part of that is because I like to fashion myself as a realist. While we love the game and are passionate about what’s best for our team, its important to never forget that the NBA is just like every other private corporation in a capitalist society in that its fuelled solely by profit. It’s estimated that the league could generate over $100 million in revenue by this alteration and though the NBA isn’t exactly starving for cash, that’s $100 million dollars that will be coming out of someone else’s pockets than ours, and that’s fine by me.
The NBA and the vast majority of its stakeholders are always going to look for more ways to increase league revenue first before anything else. The easiest way to do this has always been through finding different ways to levy fees on fans like increased ticket prices, merchandise, and digital subscription packages. Despite this we are still bombarded with dozens of awful television commercials and longer fourth quarters that seem to take forever to finish. And the reason why is that no one cares about your viewing experience if it gets in the way of easy ad revenue.
Watching the World Cup I can’t help but notice how smoother each game has felt when compared to other major sports that have action constantly broken up by television commercials or ridiculous sponsorship mentions. Wouldn’t it be amazing if you can watch basketball like this? Perhaps ads on jerseys can even replace some of the commercials we are forced to sit through. The bottom line is that what fans should care more about is their viewing experience and I highly doubt a logo is going to disrupt that.
Trust me the league wouldn’t over do it with jerseys ads from the simple fact that it would obstruct commercial jersey sales. No one is going to want to walk around with a wearable billboard for the league’s biggest sponsors like Coca-Cola, State Farm, and Taco Bell (actually there was one point during the 90s when this happened in the Hip Hop world, but that’s a different story altogether). Jersey ads are going to come whether we like it or not. Is that going to disrupt how you consume the game? I think that’s a better question to be asking at this point because as fans what we should concern ourselves with is the quality of entertainment, not the economics behind it.
So as the great Spaniard Maximus once cried: “Are you not entertained?”