NBA Jersey Space Is Already Being Carved Up for Advertising

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Take a look at that picture up there. That’s Tony Parker, of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, driving to the hole between a pair of defenders. The defenders play for Alba Berlin, a team that plays in the German League and the Eurocup — and that actually beat San Antonio on a buzzer-beater when they played a friendly last week. The defenders play for a team that has ads on its jerseys. The Spurs, of course, don’t put ads on their jerseys — aside from the name of the team, which is in and of itself advertising — but that seems to be a matter more of when, and not if, with each passing day.

Because of a new television agreement — a nine-year extension between the NBA and its two biggest television providers, Disney (which owns ESPN) and Turner (which owns TNT) — which carries with it a mind-boggling $24 billion for the league, the language seems to be already in place.

“The networks will either get a straight payout from the deal, or they will receive specific commitments from the sponsor to buy additional TV advertising during games,” sources told Sports Business Journal. Examine the Alba Berlin jerseys, as well as other international team apparel, and you can see where the prime locations for any new NBA additions would be. There’s also the fact that the league hasn’t shied away from patches and the like already. This will, essentially, be a continuation of what’s already been in place, just with whatever company you think of plastered somewhere on the jersey, instead of gold patches.

There are some differences, though, and we break down exactly what the NBA advertising might look like for a given team on the next page.

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One of the things that the television companies tried to get from the league was the ability to sell space on the jerseys directly, according to the SBD report, but the NBA resisted, and each team can independently bargain with sponsors for jersey space. What does this mean? It means a team like the Lakers, which has enough clout to make massive amounts of money on the strength of its individual brand recognition, don’t necessarily have to put “Samsung” on the front of its in-game apparel if it doesn’t want to, without hampering a team like Oklahoma City, which is notoriously stingy and would love another source of income.

This happy medium is as close to parity in advertising ability between what could be called the “legacy” NBA franchises — think the Lakers, Celtics, Knicks, and so on — with some of the less storied teams in the league. No one’s going to be all that surprised if the Timberwolves wind up with a Coca-Cola logo on the front. That’s not hating on the ‘Wolves, just pointing out that they’re fairly undistinguished.

Unlike international teams, which can rely on crests for logos, we can assume that NBA franchises will not be in any danger of having their team names mistaken for a company, rather than a squad, and frankly, that’s the most important part. Well, that and their newfound ability to sell “adless” jerseys in the specialty shop, of course.