As far back as 2009, the NBA hinted that it would follow in the footsteps of other international professional leagues and display advertisements on players’ jerseys. We saw a touch of this during the 2016 All-Star Game in February, when uniforms were sporting the KIA logo.
Last Friday, as I predicted back in June 2014, the NBA Board of Governors approved the sale of ads on jerseys beginning in the 2017-2018 season, as part of a three-year trial. I’m firmly convinced that the NBA experiment with sleeved jerseys was designed to create more room for such ads.
Leagues are always looking for new revenue streams, and ads on jerseys is a strategic move which will bring in millions of dollars each year.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said, “Jersey sponsorships provide deeper engagement with partners looking to build a unique association with our teams and the additional investment will help grow the game in exciting new ways. We’re always thinking about innovative ways the NBA can remain competitive in a global marketplace, and we are excited to see the results of this three-year trial.”
Silver is correct that jersey sponsorships will foster a new bond between players and their fans, who want to not only support, but also dress like their heroes. It’s also important to recognize that a uniform is not simply a fashion item, but ultimately it directly correlates to performance. The changes that are happening will not only influence the sport and brand mindset of fans and viewers, but take the game to another level.
It’s only a matter of time before NBA players will become walking billboards. I fully expect that NBA team jerseys will be updated every season, to keep up with changing ad campaigns and corporate sponsors – and to encourage fans to buy the latest one.