Silver: Ads on jerseys no closer

Updated: February 12, 2014, 5:41 PM ET
By Darren Rovell | ESPN.com

Floated as a possible revenue stream five years ago, the NBA appears to be no closer to putting ads on its jerseys.

The league had even mapped out the dimensions -- a 2½-inch by 2½-inch space on the front of the jerseys -- but a simple idea turned into something more complex the more it was considered, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said.

In 2011, Silver said selling the space to advertisers could be worth $100 million.

"The sense was that we were a little premature on the program and we needed to think it through systematically a little bit more," Silver told ESPN.com.

One of the problems was that teams would be competing for advertising clients. Another issue was how the ads would potentially compromise the league's television partners, ESPN and Turner.

"While our national network partners were part of the conversation and understood exactly what we were doing, as we started to talk more about it and we knew we had a negotiation coming up, their reaction was, 'Let's look at this from a standpoint of what this means to our business,'" Silver said.

The league has just started to talk about the parameters of its new television deal, which would start with the 2015-16 season.

"The good news to us is that it's very rare that a company wants to be engaged in the NBA but only wants to be sold to one way," Silver said. "They are interested in buying jersey sponsorships, but they are also interested in buying advertising, courtside signage and naming rights on our buildings. So it's not a zero sum game in terms of that money. We will get there at some point and it will be additive."

That doesn't mean the league has stopped looking for inventive places to allow teams to sell advertising.

This season, the league permitted teams to sell one-year deals to single sponsors that would enable the companies to have their logos on the space that covers the out-of-bounds area on the sideline in front of the team benches. After seeing only a few teams sign deals, Silver said the league recently authorized teams to sell sponsorships to the space for a period of three years.

"We know what the value is to advertisers in a world of 1,000-plus channels to be able to show the fans in-game branding," Silver said.

Since 2009, the NFL has permitted teams to sell advertising to one sponsor on their practice jerseys. But none of the four major sports leagues has put ads on game uniforms.

Five years ago, the WNBA started to allow corporate logos on its jerseys. The team that did the first deal, the Phoenix Mercury, now has three corporate names on its jersey -- Boost Mobile, Casino Arizona and Talking Stick Resort.

Darren Rovell | email

ESPN.com Sports Business reporter

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