NBA PM: Time to Sell Jersey Ads
It’s not a magic bullet; it can’t make the Sacramento Kings profitable; and it will have virtually no effect on BRI, the lockout or the national debt. But if the NBA were to put advertisements on jerseys—an idea the WNBA is prepared to announce, according to an article by Michael McCarthy of USA Today—perhaps that small potential income could alleviate some of obstacles preventing an agreement between the owners and players.
The disagreement, after all, is about money.
The specific infighting might be over amortizing the cost of buying a franchise and including those figures under the umbrella of “basketball related income.” Or maybe the players want profits from team-owned cable stations to be fair game for negotiations. Whatever the language or currency being discussed, the reality is that the owners are asking for a larger portion of basketball’s wealth be shifted in their direction.
But in trying to slice off a bigger chunk of the pie—or in the players’ case, trying to protect the slice they had—the possibility of making the entire pie bigger hasn’t really been much of an option.
Obviously the league is always looking for ways to make itself more profitable under normal circumstances. But normal circumstances seem about as current as short shorts now that owners and players are too busy killing the NBA’s fan base.
So why not follow the WNBA’s example and create some advertising opportunities?
Traditionalists would complain that iconic jerseys like the Celtics’, Knicks’, Lakers’ and Bulls’ shouldn’t be tampered with—and they’re right. Boston’s classic “Celtics” lettering shouldn’t have to share real estate with “Whole Foods” or “Gatorade.” But if teams that are crying poverty want to survive in their current markets, why shouldn’t they be allowed to dress their players like Ricky Bobby? NBA fans won’t complain about the Timberwolves threads being compromised by Target or Chicken of the Sea. In fact, the Nets have already sold advertising on their practice jerseys, and team CEO Brett Yormark has a NASCAR background (he brokered the sports’ $750 million sponsorship deal with mobile provider Nextel), so you know he’ll listen to offers.
The owners are one cohesive group when it comes to dealing with the players; but when the subject of profit sharing is approached, factions start splintering in every direction. So if the Lakers and Knicks don’t want to pay to keep the Charlotte Bobcats afloat, jersey advertising offers some hope of a resolution. It may not turn every red franchise into a black franchise, but it would soften the blow of whatever the ultimate solution might be.
Of course, that might underestimate the potential for a real profit. Manchester City recently banked around $657 million by renewing their shirt sponsorship with Etihad Airways while throwing in naming rights to City of Manchester Stadium. Meanwhile New Meadowlands Stadium will be called “MetLife Stadium” for the next 20 years for the mere price of $400 million. If that’s what the insurance giant was willing to pay for a name, imagine what they’d pay for something fans could actually see throughout the game.
MSG.com blogger Charlie Zegers posed a similar question to CNBC’ sports business reporter Darren Rovell on Twitter:
“If a logo deal on WNBA jerseys is worth $10M over 4 years, what would putting a logo on NBA jerseys cost?”
Rovell’s answer: “$100 million+”
NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver, as McCarthy reports, said in 2009 that the league has looked into the matter, but the rhetoric hasn’t changed since then.
“The presence of corporate branding on game uniforms is a widely accepted practice on the global sports landscape and it is an opportunity we continue to evaluate for the NBA,” league spokesman Mike Bass told USA Today.
So what can the NBA do about this now?
It will probably be something that gets tossed in the “to do” file for after the league hammers out a new collective bargaining agreement, which is emblematic of the larger problem: The two sides are too worried about taking away assets from each other, that they probably won’t consider something that is mutually beneficial.
NBLC Takes Spotlight
The National Basketball League of Canada or NBLC (unlike the CFL, it doesn’t yet have an alternate abbreviation for the French-speaking portion of the country… yet) is ready to establish itself as a legitimate sports property, because unlike previous basketball leagues in the country, this one is starting at the right time.
“There have been a lot of companies that have failed in the past because of timing,” NBLC president and CEO Andre Levingston told Steven Loung of The Sports Network. “It doesn’t matter what that business is, it can be a hamburger shop or a major company. The major deciding factor is timing and we feel that the timing is perfect for professional basketball.
“We think the country is now ready to not only accept and support professional basketball but to also enjoy the entertainment that we’ll be bringing,” he continued.
Levingston has spent the previous five seasons as owner of the Halifax Rainmen of the American Basketball Association and the Premier Basketball League, but the NBA’s lockout has provided the perfect business climate to bring his plan to fruition.
“The creating of this league has been going on five years ever since I made a decision to be a part of being involved with professional basketball here in Canada,” Levingston said. “I always knew that basketball could work here in Canada but we wanted to make sure that we had everything in place.”
The other original teams include the St. John Mill Rats and the Quebec Kebs, but four new franchises will be popping up in Moncton, New Brunswick; Oshawa, Ontario; London, Ontario and Prince Edward Island. The league will use traditional FIBA rules and there is a mandate that each franchise must have at least two Canadian players on its roster at any time. On top of that, there will also be a $150,000 (CDN) hard salary cap to work with.
The inaugural draft will take place on Sunday.
James Is Committed to Team USA
In an interview with Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype.com, LeBron James said he will be playing for Team USA in the 2012 Summer Olympics.
“I’m committed. I can’t wait for it—to have an opportunity to go to London and defend our gold medal from Beijing. It’s going to be great. I’ve always loved the Olympics just to be around the athletes from all over the world. Not only in my country but to see all of the athletes, it’s so fun… I have a great respect for all other athletes that are competing as well.”
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