Last week, NBA owners approved placing ads on jerseys starting in the 2017-18 season, making the NBA the first of the four major sports to allow corporate sponsors on in-game apparel. The space set aside for these ads will be 2.5 inches by 2.5 inches and will replace the NBA logo on the left shoulder of the jersey. The right shoulder will take on the Nike swoosh as the sports behemoth takes over as NBA apparel provider in 2017-18 as well.
While this is monumental news for the NBA — and possibly all other major sports — the NBA D-League has seen ads on game jerseys for years. The NBA’s minor league has long been a breeding ground for innovation and while this took some time for the NBA to catch on, it appears the league has done it again.
At the forefront of the sponsorship game in the D-League you will find the Texas Legends — the Dallas Mavericks affiliate. The 2015-16 season marked the third consecutive year where the Legends utilized a different secondary sponsor for every single home game. Their primary sponsor, noted on all jerseys, is Avigilon, which is a Canada based company that specializes in video surveillance software and equipment. Along with a different sponsor for each home game they also have a different jersey for each game to go with said sponsor.
That’s right, 24 different jerseys for each home game. The D-League definitely knows how to have fun!
Not only that, but each secondary sponsor is connected with a different charity for each game. The Legends auction off jerseys, hold different events between quarters and at halftime, all the while sending those proceeds to these charities. Needless to say, Texas has a unique branding implementation taking place while also finding a way to serve their community, help exposure for local businesses and charities and turn ads on jerseys into a positive rather than a hindrance.
The D-League saw 13 of their 19 teams with corporate sponsors on jerseys. While it was not a league-wide scenario, they have helped lay the groundwork for implementation into the NBA. The majority of fans are wildly in opposition of ads on jerseys, however, the benefit to the league and its players is clear as the NBA has stated they estimate revenue of $150 million from these simple ads being place on their in-game jerseys.
In recent years, the NBADL has become more inclined to fall in line with processes and procedures held by their parent league, so its feasible that all D-League teams will also add corporate sponsorships to their jerseys in the coming years. Next season, the league will hit an all-time high of 22 teams by adding three new clubs in the Greensboro Swarm, Windy City Bulls and Long Island Nets. Right now those new clubs have not announced whether or not they will partner with a sponsor for their jerseys but the likelihood seems to be increasing.
NBADL fans have become used to seeing ads on jerseys, so the change the NBA is making is not a monumental shift for those fans, but long-time NBA fans who may not have jumped on the D-League bandwagon just yet will continue to pushback in the interim.
Professional sports leagues are part of big business and ads on jerseys have been inevitable in the NBA for quite some time. The sky is not falling, the product will not be affected, and while you might notice these ads they will soon become just part of the jersey and life will go on people.
All jersey photos courtesy of Texas Legends public relations department