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NBA owners to discuss ads on jerseys at next meeting

Mar 6, 2012, 8:50 AM EDT

WNBA Sue Bird Ad jersey

It’s common in Europe — when you picture a Manchester United jersey you picture the AON on the chest. Same with any soccer or basketball team, the sponsors’ name where we expect to see the team name is expected.

What about ads on NBA jerseys? Patches somewhere promoting whatever company shelled out the bucks?

The NBA owners are going to discuss it at their next meeting, according to the Sports Business Journal (via Sporting News).

It’s a touchy topic, one that involves balancing some of the most influential league constituencies and addressing some thorny questions: Would uniform patches be league or team inventory? Will NBA broadcasters TNT and ESPN/ABC, or even uniform rights holder Adidas, want a piece of the action? Would the league take a PR hit as the first to accept non-endemic ads on uniforms?

Of course, the most important issue is also the most basic. “The most appropriate question and the answer we’re all waiting for is, ‘What is it worth?’” said Golden State Warriors president and COO Rick Welts, who did the WNBA’s first uniform advertising deal between the Phoenix Mercury and LifeLock in 2009. “I am not suggesting this is an easy issue, but I feel like it is inevitable. We just have to agree on value and what it would look like.”

One study last year said if you replaced a team name with an advertiser on a jersey it would be worth $31 million in exposure — and that was a conservative estimate that didn’t think about things like ESPN and other shows putting together nightly highlight packages. That’s a lot of money. It’s already been done on  practice jerseys used only on a practice court at a training facility by a couple NBA teams (Suns for one).

What about something as simple as Adidas — the league’s uniform maker — moving its logo into a prominent place on the jersey (the name is not on the jersey now)?

My feeling is this is coming — first with a patch for a company with a recognizable logo. For example, the league sells the rights to McDonalds to put a patch with it’s arches on every jersey, then that money is distributed to teams. Just a guess, but I could see that coming in the next few years. I don’t have to like it, but it feels inevitable.

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