The NBA is going to have advertisements on its jerseys next year, opening up a revenue opportunity for the basketball league that could generate more than $100 million annually and potentially transform the look and feel of its apparel forever. The NBA board of governors approved the move in a vote this week.
“Jersey sponsorships provide deeper engagement with partners,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement Friday. “We’re always thinking about innovative ways the NBA can remain competitive in a global marketplace.”
During a three-year period beginning with the 2017-18 regular season, the ads will appear in the form of 2.5-inch square patches on jersey sleeves, opposite the Nike logo. Each team will be responsible for securing its own sponsors. The league said that while patches will not appear on the jerseys it sells online and at brick-and-mortar locations such as the NBA Store, individual franchises will have the opportunity to sell jerseys with the sponsor patches on them at their respective retail locations.
What’s unclear is if or how the teams will share any of the revenue they generate from their respective brand partnerships. Those points likely will be settled next year, when the NBA and the players start hammering out the league’s next collective bargaining agreement.
While brand logos on sports uniforms constitute a standard practice across much of the world, it’s a trend that had yet to catch on among the major North American sports: Taking its cue from foreign leagues, Major League Soccer has incorporated advertiser logos into its jerseys since day one.
This is the next step down a path the NBA has been tip-toeing toward for a while. In 2012, one of the last years of David Stern’s tenure as league commissioner, a plan to put logos on jerseys came close to fruition before ultimately being scuttled. In 2014, Stern’s newly installed replacement, Silver, called the prospect of putting advertisements on jerseys “inevitable.”
At the time, Silver pegged the time frame for the appearance of brands on jerseys at five years, so the announcement Friday shows the league moved faster than he anticipated. Logos have been featured on both NBA D-League and WNBA jerseys, and the Kia logo was visible on jerseys during the NBA All-Star Game this season.