NBA Patch Ads Pose New Revenue Source for Teams

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By Shannon Flaherty, @shannonscf 

What the Celtics jerseys will look like next year. Image via Paul Lukas, @UniWatch

What the Celtics jerseys will look like next year. Image via Paul Lukas, @UniWatch

The NBA is rolling out advertising patches on their jerseys beginning next season. Teams will be allowed to feature a patch on the upper-left region of their jerseys featuring a corporate ad. Thus far, six teams have announced partnerships with brands ranging from tech companies to charities.

The Philadelphia 76ers will don StubHub patches while the Sacramento Kings will have Blue Diamond Almonds. The Boston Celtics partnered with GE and the Brooklyn Nets with Infor. The Utah Jazz linked up with Qualtrics and the reigning NBA champs, the Cleveland Cavaliers, will represent Akron-based Goodyear.  

Though only six of the twenty teams in the league have announced their patch advertisements, it seems likely that many more will follow suit. Companies are willing to pay premiums for this new advertising concept, and teams are eager for the new source of revenue. The logo patch deals are worth a reported $5-$10 million annually for their three-year trial periods. These figures could be a steal if proven effective, considering how often players are seen and photographed in their jerseys. The association of a logo with both a team and celebrity players provides tremendous exposure for companies willing to splash the cash.

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Critics of these uniform advertisements say they are tacky and tasteless.  Some feel the ads are obtrusive and give a “sell-out” impression. It can be argued that the logos take away from the branding of the team, especially when the patch is in a loud color that clashes with the team jersey colors.  

The new Five for the Fight jersey patch the Jazz will wear. Photo via Utah Jazz, @utahjazz

The new Five for the Fight jersey patch the Jazz will wear. Photo via Utah Jazz, @utahjazz

One of the aforementioned advertisement patches sticks out from the rest. Software company Qualtrics has opted to not include their logo on the Utah Jazz jerseys, but rather the logo of their recently launched charity, Five for the Fight. The charity’s mission is to raise funds for finding the cure for cancer. This patch certainly wins the award for biggest heart and can hardly be criticized harshly like the other corporate logos in the league.

With this new patch concept, many sports fans seem to be thinking: “what next?” Will other leagues follow in the NBA’s footsteps?  English soccer has long been utilizing jerseys as prime space for advertisements. Now with companies willing to shell out serious cash, it’s a wonder other leagues haven’t hopped on the bandwagon sooner.  

The MLB is the most traditional of the big 4 leagues in the minds of many. Yet surprisingly, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said he was ‘open-minded’ about the prospect of bringing uniform advertising to the baseball diamond. The league will already be experiencing uniform changes for the 2020 season when Under Armour takes over as the official uniform provider. This may be a perfect time frame for baseball to add corporate logos as the NBA will be at the end of its three-year patch trial run.  

Like Rob Manfred, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is reportedly also open to the idea of uniform patches. Less warm to the concept is the NFL. Commissioner Roger Goodell stated that "the league had no interest in jersey ad patches," and has not made any further comments on the topic.

For now, we have to play the wait and see game before a final verdict is given on the success of uniform advertising in America. All eyes will be on the NBA as we anxiously await which additional teams will include jersey advertisements and who will opt to preserve the tradition of prioritizing brand image. This advertising trend has the potential to separate the forward-thinking teams, willing to match their image to changing consumer trends, from the more traditional teams in the league.  

Student Bio: Shannon Flaherty is a junior at Southern Methodist University working towards a double major in Marketing and Applied Physiology & Sport Management.  She is a student athlete on the Pom Squad.  Flaherty is interested in pursuing a career in the sport marketing industry. You can connect with her on LinkedIn here.

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