Jersey sponsorship is still relatively new to the big four sports in the United States. Although many teams have sponsor patches for their practice gear, patches haven’t been negotiated for game worn uniforms outside of MLS. The NBA was the first to make a move and the Sixers and Stubhub officially announced that the secondary ticket market leader will be the official jersey partner of the 76ers starting in the 2017-2018 season. The fact that a national company with no local ties to the Sixers will be the first official partner shows that teams can look outside their local market for their jersey sponsorships.
When dealing with these type of deals, sponsors and teams must weigh whether their brands can work together and line up strategically for everyone to get the most out of the partnership. That’s why many locally based companies end up dealing with teams where their headquarters are located. It makes sense that the Twins play at Target Field or the Patriots host games at Gillette Stadium. Local companies can resonate more with fans.
Stubhub is based in San Francisco. It obviously has ties to the world of sports, but it isn’t a local Philly company like lets say Comcast. There was some thought that many of these jersey partners will come from the local market or at least have a local feel. The Stubhub deal shows that jersey sponsors may trend to more larger national brands. It will all depend on the market, the reputation and legacy of the team — which the 76ers still have a historically strong brand –, and prior business relationships between team owners and official partners.
In the end it will be a blend of both national and local companies. It would be tough to think that brands like Coca-Cola, McDonalds or Mercedes Benz will stay out of the jersey sponsorship games, especially with the exposure the NBA provides. Still, some teams may choose a local brand over a strict dollar amount to build goodwill and connection with their community. Dunkin Donuts may be a perfect match for the Celtics. Target makes sense for the Timberwolves. That may have changed with the Stubhub, Sixers deal. With today’s news it looks like national brands may be making a run for some of the bigger traditional brands in basketball.
Michael Colangelo is Managing Editor of The Fields of Green and Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute.