June 27, 2014
By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek
The NBA next season is moving the league logo to the back of team jerseys. While the league called it a “stylistic move,” the decision increases speculation that teams could start selling jersey sponsorships as soon as this offseason. If so, the NBA would be the first of the “Big Four” U.S. sports leagues to sell jersey ads.
The move shouldn’t come as surprise as a complete surprise. Earlier in the year, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said ads on player jerseys were inevitable. While the league has discussed the possibility for a couple of years, it’s still unknown how teams will sell the ad space and share revenue. An internal study by the NBA estimated that ads on NBA jerseys might bring in an additional $100 million a year in revenue.
Outside of MLS, corporate sponsor logos are almost entirely absent from American pro sports jerseys. While most leagues have gotten comfortable with practice jersey logos, a longstanding mindset about the sanctity of sport and concern over sponsor leverage have thus far prevented official game jerseys from becoming, as the New York Times put it, “a running, passing, shooting and dunking billboard.”