In a move that’s been a long time coming, the NBA will officially sell out fabric space by putting ads on the front of its 2016 and 2017 All-Star jerseys. The Wall Street Journal reports that the league is planning to put a 3.25-inch-by-1.6-inch patch with a Kia logo on the upper left chest of the in-game jerseys, as well as jerseys available for retail sale. The arrangement comes out of a provision for sponsored jersey patches in a deal that was negotiated last year between the league and Turner Sports, the broadcast rights holder to the All-Star Game. Although it’s common in European soccer leagues and NASCAR, this is the first time one of the four major American sports will have a non-apparel brand logo appear on one of its game uniforms.
Before you throw your arms in the air and cry foul over the death of purity in a multi-billion dollar business, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver pointed out recently that such jersey ads have been tested before and pretty much no one noticed. “During the slam dunk competition on Saturday night of [the 2015] All-Star Weekend, all the contestants were wearing a Sprite logo on their jerseys,” he said. “It was fascinating to me [that] it got almost no attention.” In fact, the NBA says All-Star Saturday night event patches have been around since 2009.
So the real firestorm should really by why no one started a firestorm over this earlier. “What’s next?” we ought to be yelling. “LeBron James is going to get a branded tattoo we won’t notice until 2020? Somebody pay attention!”