The 2016 NBA Playoffs have begun and this year promises to have a ton of storylines and suspense. The Golden State Warriors look to cement their historic regular season with a second consecutive NBA championship, the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder look to push the Warriors to the limit, the Cleveland Cavaliers look to stay healthy as LeBron James makes another deep postseason run, and other intriguing NBA Playoffs matchups as well. Days before the start of the NBA Playoffs, the National Basketball Association announced that NBA owners approved placing ads on jerseys, starting with the 2017-18 season when Nike becomes the official apparel provider for the league. The NBA has become the first major American men’s professional team sports league among the NFL, NHL, and Major League Baseball to have advertising on their game day jerseys. Given how much sports fans identify with the colors and jerseys of their favorite teams, it is understandable to wonder if the NBA’s advertising decision will be met with significant backlash from NBA fans.
Sports fans are used to advertising and marketing throughout college and professional sports. College football bowl games and naming rights to sports arenas and stadiums are two major examples of how advertising remains big business for both college and professional sports. NASCAR fans are accustomed to seeing their favorite drivers having their racing suits and cars bombarded with ads from numerous companies. Sports fans are even used to seeing Adidas, Nike, Under Armour, and other apparel merchandisers on the uniforms of their favorite team jersey but generally those apparel companies are represented in a fairly nondescript way on the jersey. The NBA’s jersey advertising patch, will be approximately 2 ½ inches x 2½ inches with an ad will be on placed on the left shoulder area of the jersey. The 2017-18 NBA jerseys will look similar to the 2016 All-Star jerseys that featured the KIA logo on one shoulder and the Adidas logo on the other.
A few of years ago, the NBA was reportedly contemplating of implementing jersey ads but has decided now is the time to make this announcement. This decision was not unanimous among NBA teams as reportedly the Los Angeles Lakers were among the minority of teams that opposed the idea. Given the incredible history around the Lakers and their brand, it makes sense that they would be opposed to it and it is safe to say that many of their fans will have issue with ads adorning their iconic jerseys. It will be hard to convince fans that the NBA earning about $100 million more a year because of jersey advertising is worth their teams having an irrelevant logo on their jerseys. It will be impossible to convince NBA fans that the jersey advertising will not be similar to their female counterparts in the WNBA. American sports fans have long thought their sports leagues and uniforms as superior to those across the world and will not react well to their sports jerseys potentially looking like soccer jerseys or professional basketball jerseys from sports leagues in other countries. Whether there will be a monetary backlash by fans in terms of attendance and TV ratings will be the indicator of how much they are upset by the NBA becoming the first pro sports league to turn its players into billboards.