Each team will be responsible for selling its own ad space to corporate sponsors, who will be able to place their logos on the left shoulder of the jerseys. The ads will be limited to 2.5” x 2.5” patches, and for now, the length of the sponsorships will be limited to a three-year test period. During that time, the league will closely monitor the impact of the program, weighing the ad revenue against any potential negative reaction from the fan base. It is likely that the National Football League, Major League Baseball, and the National Hockey League, who currently do not allow advertisements on uniforms, will be watching closely as well.
Similar ads appeared on NBA Jerseys at the 2016 All-Star Game in February with Kia as the first sponsor. And the NBA is not the first professional sports league to entertain the idea; the practice of selling ad space on uniforms is commonplace in Major League Soccer, the WNBA, and NASCAR, as well as in professional sports leagues in other countries. NBA commissioner Adam Silver estimates the program could generate $100 million in additional revenue annually. Teams will net half of the revenue from the sponsorships they sell, and the rest will go into the league’s revenue-sharing pool.
The corporate sponsors of each team will not be the only logos appearing on the jerseys. Nike, who will be taking over production of the uniforms from Adidas in an eight-year deal worth roughly $1 billion, will be allowed to display their logo on the jerseys of all 30 NBA teams (the Charlotte Hornets are rumored to be using the logo of subsidiary brand Jordan, since the team is owned by Michael Jordan). During the eleven years that Adidas was producing the uniforms, their logo was not visible on the jerseys.
As a compromise for fans who want jerseys to be ad-free, uniforms sold by general retailers will not include the corporate logos. Teams can still choose to sell jerseys with the sponsors’ logos from their own stores.
Ultimately, the size of the patches are relatively small, the time frame for sponsorships is limited during an initial test period, and the projected annual revenue as a result of the program is not very significant compared to the league’s estimated $7 billion in overall revenue. However, the implications are still huge. If the program is successful, it could be expanded to include larger ads or multiple sponsors – and the NFL, MLB, NHL could soon follow suit – giving marketers more opportunities to connect with audiences in new ways. It will be interesting to see which brands jump on this opportunity in the 2017-2018 season.