At right price, please advertise on uniforms
March, 28, 2012
By Henry Abbott
Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE/Getty Images
If the NBA can survive paid logo placement on referees, what's the worry about players?
Mark Cuban is making noises about all the money the NBA could make selling advertising space on jerseys. And he's not just talking in theoretical terms. He's saying it could happen, and soon.
An industry source with knowledge of the league's thinking echoes that sentiment, saying the league has long been willing to consider it, despite reports to the contrary.
The hurdles are, and have always been, as follows:
- The size and placement of the logos.
- The need for team logos and names to remain prominent to continue building recognizable global brands.
- A formula to share revenue from such sponsorships among league, teams and players.
- How much of the revenue will really be new, versus redirected from things like arena naming rights, courtside signage, TV ad buys and the like.
I'll tell you when I grew fervently in favor of selling space on jerseys at the right price: In the lockout. There we were, spending pointless hours in hotel lobbies while league and union battled over an amount of money that was in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
The choices they made were hard ones. Team employees were laid off. Player salaries were cut. There was a struggle to find more support for retired players. There was real financial pain.
One of the costs was the cancellation of 240 regular-season NBA games.
I don't know how much money you could raise by putting a logo on the chest of every player in the NBA, during every game, but it's a lot. Maybe even hundreds of millions a year -- the very amount that would have solved the problems that not only led to the lockout, but caused all kinds of financial pain to begin with.
Whatever objections there may be to seeing some corporation promoted in that sacred space, isn't it more than made up for by really, genuinely, tangibly making the league stronger?
There are signs fans are fine with it, too. HoopIdea's first initiative was to speed up the end of close games. An oft-repeated response from readers was to do away with TV timeouts, and replace the lost revenue with money from logos on jerseys. In general, moving the league toward making money while the game is on the air, as opposed to when the game is stopped, seems to favor people who like watching basketball.
Whether it's fewer timeouts, better players, a high-priced coach ... fans love the things that come with making profits, and hate the things that come with losing.
I don't want to have the look of the game polluted for pocket change. But if the league can raise hundreds of millions a year, a game-changing amount of cash, from a logo here or there ... show me where to sign.
The board of governors meets next month.