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NBA to allow shirt sponsorship

BBC News BBC News 15/04/2016
basketball players © Getty Images basketball players

NBA basketball teams will be able to sell advertising space on their playing jerseys for the first time starting from the 2017-18 season.

Tottenham Hotspur with their shirt sponsor logo for AIA © Getty Images Tottenham Hotspur with their shirt sponsor logo for AIA

The NBA said teams in the league, encompassing the biggest basketball clubs in North America, could place a 2.5in (6.3cm) square sponsor's logo.

Teams until now have been unable to exploit this lucrative commercial option enjoyed by many other sports.

Experts predict the deals will generate more than $4m (£2.8m) a year for clubs.

'Deeper engagement'

The NBA, which is the first major North American sports league to announce plans to put ads on jerseys, said a small patch would appear on the front left of match jerseys as part of a three-year pilot programme.

"Jersey sponsorships provide deeper engagement with partners looking to build a unique association with our teams, and the additional investment will help grow the game in exciting new ways," said NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

Featuring their brand logo on shirts will give advertisers more opportunity to be seen by fans watching on TV.

David Carter from the USC Marshall Sports Business Institute said the pilot initiative was part of the NBA's march towards "aggressively featuring corporate brands" on team shirts.

In June, the NBA signed a $1bn sponsorship deal with Nike that places the Nike's "swoosh" logo on the right shoulder of all the NBA teams shirts.

The NBA's 30 teams will be responsible for making their own deals with sponsors for this new patch space.

"Anything that makes the individual franchise more viable will pay a positive dividend to the league itself," said Mr Carter.

The concern for teams and players will be how any new deal interacts with existing sponsorship agreements. A player, for example, that is endorsed by Pepsi may not be so keen to wear a Coke logo on their shirt.

Sport sponsorship

Company sponsorship is a huge revenue stream for sport globally.

According to Price Waterhouse Coopers global sport sponsorship revenue was worth $45.3bn (£32bn) in 2015.

Collectively, teams in England's top football division, the Premier League, brought in £200m in the 2015-2016 season from shirt sponsorship alone.

The potential value of these deals for the NBA will vary greatly based on team.

"The big market teams already have hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, so as a percentage this won't be much, but for the smaller teams the percentage this could add to sponsorship revenue will be better," said Mr Carter.

Leading the way

The NBA is the first of the four big US sports to allow on shirt brand sponsorship.

The National Football League, Major League Baseball and National Hockey League do not allow sponsors logos to feature on playing shirts.

Leagues have been reluctant to put advertising on shirts for fear it will turn off fans.

The new sponsor patch will not appear on the retail version on the shirts sold at team or NBA stores, but the advertisers will be allowed to sell branded shirts at their own stores.

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