Although professional sports often seem like they are recession-proof, that is not the case with the NBA. Read Bill Simmons’s article ‘Welcome to the No Benjamins Association’ for a look at what kind of trouble the NBA is in and try out the NBA quiz there to test your knowledge of the NBA. When all else fails, selling advertising is an attractive option for any business including professional sports. The NBA is a worldwide staple and product by tens of millions of people, and sponsors would be willing to jump at an opportunity to be placed on the front of a team’s uniform.
The WNBA’s Pheonix Mercury has sold the front of their jersey’s to LifeLock for advertising revenue. The new jerseys have LifeLock on the front as if it were their team name. A small patch with the Mercury team name is placed up in the corner of the jersey. I have no clue how the WNBA has lasted this long and would be surprised that even with heavy sponsorship, they last another 5 years. Is this the first and only American professional sports team that will style their team jersey’s with a sponsor’s name or is this a first and only deal? If the economy continues downward, and the financial situation in the NBA really is as bad as it seems, this will not be the first and only team to take this opportunity.
The NBA has a lot of tradition behind the franchises, players, and jerseys. “Throwback” jerseys are a bigger staple to the NBA than in any other sport. Would NBA fans be able to accept their beloved players wearing sponsored jerseys without their team names on the front? Could you imagine Lebron James wearing a jersey with Sprite on the front or Kobe Bryant wearing a White Castle jersey? Sure the teams could keep their colors, but are the jerseys really worth tampering with? The question here is if the NBA should allow franchisees to sell jersey space to sponsors?
Risks to Allowing NBA Franchises to Accept Sponsors to Buy Jersey Space
Most of the risks associated with allowing NBA franchises to accept sponsors to buy jersey space stem from media criticism and loss of fan support, but they do not end there. The teams must also choose the sponsors they choose very very carefully. Imagine the damage that would be done to an NBA franchise if their sponsor turned out to be the next Enron, or just another one of the many folding companies across the country like GM, Chrysler, Fannie Mae, etc. Teams would have to be very cautious of who they accepted as sponsors due to many products and processes that are controversial. Ex: Nike and underpaid child labor.
Would fans stop watching the NBA if teams became overly sponsored? No. The NBA in America has no direct competition or substitute. General sports fans who occasionally turn on the NBA might completely go away and denounce the NBA due to their disgust with an overabundance of sponsorships being advertised on team jerseys, but the die-hard fans will continue to watch, and other fans will warm up to the idea eventually. Oversees, soccer teams often have sponsor names on the front and back of jerseys, so the loss of fans would not be a permanent problem.
There is a possibility that the NBA could lose money other than ticket sales and it has to do with merchandise sales. Who would want to buy a Detroit Pistons jersey if it only said Ford on the front? Much of the NBA’s profitability lies in its ability to sell merchandise including stars’ jerseys.
These are only a few of the potential risks, many others are present and would arise if the option to allow sponsored jersey’s come into play.
Rewards to Allowing NBA Franchises to Accept Sponsors to Buy Jersey Space
The rewards are cut and dry, money, money, and more money. The earning potential for an NBA team through sponsorships is tens of millions which would yield great benefits for the organization and give them staying power. Added to the financial aspect, there is a possibility for teams to positively benefit from being partnered with financially strong and global companies and to gain more fans through those relationships.
Sponsors would help smaller market teams more than teams like the Lakers, Celtics, and Knicks who have large fan bases and bring in plenty of money to stay afloat. Former teams like the Seattle Supersonics may have been able to stay profitable if they would have accepted corporate sponsorship. Sponsored jerseys would open up many doors for smaller market teams.
The NBA should allow teams to have the option to accept sponsorships on their jersey, but the NBA should have the option to reject offers if they are not in the best interest of the league. If teams feel that sponsored jerseys will ruin their image and drive away fans, they can simply opt-out of this option. Giving the option to franchises is a good idea for the league and with the economy continuing its fall, this may be inevitable.
Not all teams would be wise in switching to sponsored jerseys, but the option should be available and considered.