SBJ/January 16-22, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NBA team marketers again discuss selling ad space on team jerseys

The prospect of selling advertising space on NBA game jerseys was discussed again at the recent NBA sales meeting held in Brooklyn as teams hunt for new sponsorship inventory to drive revenue.

“It’s an ongoing conversation,” said Chris Granger, senior vice president of the NBA’s team marketing and business operations division. “Clearly, this would be a big opportunity, but because it is such a big opportunity, we want to think it through and be very mindful.”

The league isn’t close to making a decision on whether to open up the sale of advertising space on team jerseys, but with the NBA-owned WNBA and the D-League already having team and league jersey sponsorship deals, some NBA team executives see a major opportunity.

The Phoenix Mercury is one of five WNBA teams with jersey sponsors.
The Los Angeles Lakers, one of the league’s top brands, are not against the idea. “It is popular in Europe and I don’t think we would be necessarily opposed to it with certain guidelines,” said Jeanie Buss, executive vice president of business operations for the Lakers.

One source said there will be more attention paid to the idea as teams continue to look for new marketing categories.

“Teams are searching for new revenue opportunities, not unlike five years ago when they were pushing for the casino sponsorship category or the liquor sponsorship category,” said one source with knowledge of the league sales meeting held on Jan. 9 and 10. “The [jersey sponsorship] question was raised on the team side, not by the league.”

The league has since opened the casino and liquor sponsorship categories to teams. But there are myriad issues the league must work through before allowing jersey sponsorship deals, including how revenue would be counted in the league’s new collective-bargaining agreement, what sponsorship categories would be allowed to be displayed on the jerseys, whether the NBA would sell jersey ad space to a league partner or allow teams to sell their own deals, and any impact it would have in the league’s uniform deal with Adidas, which does not put the company’s logo on game jerseys. The Adidas logo is allowed on warm-up and practice gear.

“The procedural questions are large,” said Sal LaRocca, executive vice president of global merchandising for the NBA. “Our sponsorship guys would tell you national or local broadcasters might want to get involved. So it is an intriguing issue, but one with a lot of complexities and stakeholders.”

A study done by Horizon Media last year estimated a potential value of a full season of jersey sponsorships at $31.1 million, leaguewide.

“I think the league is always looking for opportunity, but it is so early in the conversation,” said another source.

Staff writer Terry Lefton contributed to this report.

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