NBA considers adding ads to players' jerseys

Published: Sunday, April 1 2012 4:39 p.m. MDT

Tyson Rytting shops for a gift for his wife at the Real Salt Lake Team Store in Sandy Friday, March 30, 2012.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — How would you feel about wearing your favorite Utah Jazz player's jersey that prominently features the name or logo of a high-profile company?

You know, like you see on jerseys in Major League Soccer or virtually every top-flight soccer league in Europe, not to mention almost every sports or racing league worldwide.

The idea is under consideration by the owners of the 30 National Basketball Association teams. If implemented, the ads could potentially generate millions of dollars in additional revenue for the players and teams.

"Having sponsor logos on uniforms has been a subject of ongoing conversation with our teams … that we continue to discuss and evaluate," said Michael Bass, vice president of marketing/communications for the NBA. "The WNBA (Women's National Basketball Association) and our minor league (National Basketball Developmental League) have been securing sponsorships for the last few years."

Bass said the NBA is watching its affiliate leagues to see how well the model works as a revenue generating source. Monitoring those leagues may help determine what works and what may be an applicable business practice for the NBA, he added.

Because NBA games are televised all over the world in more than 200 countries, he said the league must consider the impact the advertisements could have on the globally recognized team brands of the league.

Bass noted that the NBA is the only major North American sports league that doesn't even allow the uniform manufacturer's name or logo on its team jerseys or shorts. However, manufacturer names and logos are on warm-up attire.

On the other hand, the Jazz wouldn't have to look very far to see an example of a franchise that has implemented the corporate branding strategy successfully.

In 2006, Real Salt Lake became the first team in a major American sports league to display a sponsor's name on the front of its jersey, signing a multimillion-dollar deal with Lehi-based dietary supplement juice company XanGo. At the time, the deal was reportedly worth $4 million to $5 million over four years.

"It's a tremendous revenue stream," said RSL spokesman Trey Fitz-Gerald. "It’s a little foreign to American sports fans to have corporate signage or sponsorship on the jersey, but it's extremely commonplace everywhere else in the world."

Fitz-Gerald said many of MLS's and Europe's most recognizable soccer teams are known for the sponsorships that are emblazoned across their jerseys, and the same could happen for NBA teams over time if the league decided to adopt the policy.

The Utah Jazz declined comment on the topic, instead deferring to the league office while the matter is still in the exploratory stages of discussion. The issue could come up at the April NBA Board of Governors meeting.

While the league has yet to decide what direction to take, Bass said there is serious consideration put into these preliminary discussions.

"Not having corporate insignia on uniforms is the exception, not the rule on a global sports landscape," he said. "We continue to discuss and evaluate having sponsor logos on NBA uniforms. (That) includes the best ways to approach the marketplace (and) the impact on the key stakeholders involved." 

E-mail: jlee@desnews.com Twitter: JasenLee1

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