USA Today - NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver says in the 2009-2010 season, teams will be allowed to sell ads on their practice jerseys (not in-game jerseys). Says Silver, "We are operating a diverse business all around the world. (The sponsored game jersey) is a well-established practice in other countries. Ultimately, I think our fans will come to accept it."
Read between the baselines:
The economy. You've heard it before and it comes up again. Teams are struggling to make money and jersey ad space is another way to bring in some revenue. It's doubtful that in-game jerseys will have ads this year, but the practice jersey ads are certainly a stepping stone for such a situation.
Traditionally speaking, this is a sickening idea for the basketball fan. Old clips from the NBA archives show Bill Russell, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson doing their thing representing one name: their team. Not All State Car Insurance... and the Celtics, Bulls, or Lakers. Silver's belief that "fans will come to accept it" is a little far fetched and doesn't seem validated.
Economically, this is a goldmine of an idea. Teams have already named their arenas after corporate sponsors (Staples Center, Pepsi Center, Quicken Loans Arena) and have in-game commercials with Miller High Life plays of the game, and the scrolling announcer tables that change ads throughout the course of a game. The actual game jerseys that the players wear would make sure that EVERY fan sees the ad.
Commercials - With Tivo, games being viewed online, and people simply leaving the room or changing the channel when commercials are on, the NBA fan does not see commercials as often as the advertiser would like.
In-game advertisements - The NBA fan sees the advertisment but is far more interested in the sponsored highlight it's showing.
IN-GAME JERSEY AD - Imagine some company... Billy Bob's Sushi Cuisine for example, on the front of Kobe Bryant's Los Angeles Laker jersey. Already the most purchased jersey in the world right now, an ad on Kobe's jersey would be seen by basketball fans from LA to China. Youtube highlights, photos on the front page of the sports section (or googlenews' sports section), and fans purchasing the jersey thus becoming walking advertisements, would all feature Billy Bob's Sushi Cuisine ad. The ad becomes famous, and the Lakers cash in for adverstising.
Of course Soccer jerseys are well knwon for their corporate sponsored jerseys. One thing that you notice is that hte ad is far bigger than the tiny team patch on the breast of the jersey. Arsenal Gunners players look like they're instead playing for the Flying Emirates. But the Arsenal Gunners make money by selling this ad space on in-game jerseys.
It's unknown how basketball teams would feature their ads in terms of size, color, and placement. But two WNBA teams have already started this practice, here's the before and after.
Again, this season will only feature ads on practice jerseys but who sees and/or buys the practice jerseys? What are we talkin' bout? Practice?! This is a stepping stone for in-game jersey ads, cheapening the traditionality and purity of the game. However, it seems necessary for some low market teams who can barely make money. Forbes put out a report in December of 2008 showing the most profitable teams. 10 teams were in the negative category in operating income (Bulls, Lakers and Pistons were the top 3). It's doubtful that big name markets (at least initially) would do this, such as the Celtics, Lakers or Knicks. For crying out loud, the Madison Square Garden is still called "The Madison Square Garden," not the McDonalds Square Garden. But lower market teams such as the Wolves, Grizzlies, Thunder, and Clippers may have to do so just to stay in business.
It's possible that the players union can discuss the situation a tthe next Collective Bargaining Agreement meeting but if it's their boss' who are trying to make money so they can PAY these players, what kind of argument will they have?
As a fan, you hope your team doesn't cheapen their name by slapping "Billy Bob's Sushi" on their jersey or become sell-outs and put General Motors on there instead. I can only imagine these teams becoming the butt of some rap lyrics: "You're a sellout like the Wolves sponsoring McDonald, you make me sick, I stay true to the game like the New York Knicks" ... or something a little cooler than that.
Those are the facts. And that's one way to read between the [base]lines.