In 2017, the NBA became the first major American sports league to allow teams to sell ad space on jerseys. This practice is common in sports like soccer, nascar, and golf but, until last year, the “big four” (NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB) have resisted jersey ads for fear that they would come across as “tacky” and negatively impact the viewing experience.
As an avid NBA fan who lives in a house with four other avid NBA fans, I watched more basketball last year than I would like to admit. During the 2017-18 season half the league had patch ads and I never found them to be distracting or tacky. Their presence did not have a negative impact on my viewing experience. In fact, I found that the GE and Goodyear ads on the Celtics and Cavaliers jerseys (respectively) somehow made the jerseys look cooler.
Based on my totally unrepresentative view of these patches and on the fact that more teams unveiled new ads last week, I can’t help conclude that the new patch initiative has been a success for the NBA and the companies advertising on its teams’ jerseys.
NBA teams are charging anywhere from 5 to 20 million dollars a year for companies to advertise on their jerseys. This is a good chunk of “free money” for teams and a pretty good deal for advertisers considering how many viewers, both on TV and social media, will see these patch ads over the course of an NBA season. Forbes says that, “the new advertising opportunity will generate over $350 million in value to these sponsors on social media alone” and that the jersey patches are among the best placed ads in sports.
On NBA media day last week, the Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs unveiled new patch ads, bringing the number of NBA teams with jersey ads to 24. Soon all 30 NBA teams will feature advertisements on their jerseys.
Will other major sports leagues follow the NBA’s lead and allow teams to sell advertising space on jerseys and equipment?