The NBA hasn’t exactly hidden its desire to put advertisements on jerseys. It started more than two years ago, the NBA All Star-Game in New York had jersey sponsors and there weren’t many complaints. We’ve covered how jersey sponsors will also have to purchase media (advertisements). Basically it’s been fait accompli for a while and now it’s official.
Get ready for those sponsor patches. (Note: I will be very disappointed if the Celtics don’t have a jersey patch from Dunkin’ Donuts.) There are rumblings that some teams even have a jersey deal in place. The deals will not only benefit teams financially — jersey deals tend to be big money/longer time frame deals — and commissioner Adam Silver believes it will help introduce more people to the NBA.
Silver told Rachel Nichols of ESPN: “What we’re talking about is a patch on the jersey. And one of the reasons we want to do it is that it creates an additional investment in those companies in the league . . . . the amplification we get from those sponsors.” The motive hasn’t changed which is why we will see jersey sponsors as soon as 2017-2018.
So which league is next? We sort of already reviewed that when the discussion of jersey sponsorship was at a high point in February around the NBA All-Star break. It has to be the NHL. Currently its teams sit at the lowest average value — in the Big Four U.S. sports — according to Forbes’ list of franchise valuations, and it’s not even close. There has already been a discussion that the NHL would be a first or second mover, so it makes sense for the NHL to move now. If other leagues are taking up corporate sponsors for jersey patches, it means marketing budgets are dwindling. It’s essentially a zero-sum game and if corporate partners spend all their money before the NHL comes knocking, it would be a big loss for the league and its teams.
MLB is too tradition-bound, and the NFL probably doesn’t want to mess with a good thing, so the NHL should move now. There should be little to no delay. It’s the only way to lock in sponsors that currently have only 30 options — the number of teams in the NBA.
Michael Colangelo is Managing Editor of The Fields of Green and Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute.