NASCAR does it. Major League Soccer does it. Even the National Football League has begun to do it on their practice jerseys. Sponsorship patches, while hinted at previously are becoming a more likely reality after NBA commissioner Adam Silver proposed the league may utilize them on their jerseys by 2019 in a measure that could categorize the official as greedy. The question is: while the NBA’s head honcho has admitted to it, should he follow through with it?
Before a discussion can be had about whether or not the league should pursue the prospect of sponsorship patches, there needs to be an explanation put forth in terms of why and the advantages of implementing this strategy. Without a shadow of doubt, money is the principle reason why the NBA or any other professional sports organization would go through with this blunt sponsorship program.
Yes, there are plenty of teams within the NBA that are hurting for money. Take a look at the league’s worst team Bucks who are seeking new ownership for the franchise. However, by no means are they in a dangerous situation. Secondly, TV ratings have been going up the last two seasons after a decrease during the 2012 lockout. In other words, money is not a problem in this league where the numbers are continuing to increase year after year.
Where this is headed is it seems Silver is influenced by the financials the teams could be making, especially considering their sister league, the WNBA, is one of the most well known sports that utilize these sponsorship patches. The difference being though that the womens’ league isn’t all that profitable. Just take a look at the salaries of their players. Women average out to about $75,000, topping out a little bit above $100,000 and a minimum being around $35,000. The men on the other hand make an average of $5.15 million, topping out at $30 million and a minimum around $500,000. That is not a misprint.
Considering these numbers, it makes total sense that the WNBA would make a leap into the sponsorship program since they aren’t a very profitable league. The NBA is highly profitable though and the fact that these teams need more money is absolutely absurd, which brings us to another point. By allowing these patches on the jerseys, it would make the richer teams richer.
For example, Nike wants to sponsor a team. Are they going to choose the Minnesota Timberwolves or are they going to choose a larger market like the Los Angeles Clippers? Of course they’re going to pick Los Angeles, a team who already has a ton of financials to support the team.
This simply is a bad idea for this very reason. In fact, one of the main reasons the NBA had a lockout in the first place was due to the monumental profits and quality of basketball between high earning teams and low earning teams. If they go through with this sponsorship program, it’ll only increase the disparity.
Arguably the most known owner in the NBA Mark Cuban of another large market team, the Dallas Mavericks doesn’t just think but in his words, “knows” the league will make the transition. The question is how much money will be made through these sponsorship patches. For a comparison, soccer’s the English Premier League makes approximately $155 million. However, if a global enterprise such as professional basketball gets in the game, it’s possible for it to make over $200 million from sponsorship revenue. That’s a hefty chunk of change for one of the most popular leagues in the world.
The only difference though is that unlike soccer or WNBA uniforms, the patch won’t encompass such a high percentage of real estate on the jersey. Adam Silver announced today that the proposed sponsorship patches would encompass a 2.5 inches by 2.5 inches spot on NBA jerseys by eliminating in your face advertising and accusations of the league office being greedy.
The question then becomes if the patch is going to be that small, will advertisers be as interested. Take a look at those WNBA uniforms and it is in clear view on the front of the jersey, to the point where the company name is the name of the organization. This might be the best way to go that while it would still get heat from fans and players, isn’t quite as obtrusive as those found on the womens’ jerseys.
Having said that, it doesn’t mean Adam Silver should make it happen. Of course sponsorship isn’t a new thing with sports like NASCAR and UFC doing it for years. However, those sports are entirely different entities.
NASCAR doesn’t have the financial muscle that other major sports do. There also are a lot of other expenses needed to be paid for including driver, his team, car maintenance, gas, etc. The reason why there are logos all over the driver’s jacket as well as his car is to fund all of these expenses. As a result, it makes more sense in the sport as they aren’t just doing it in a way to get even richer than they already are.
UFC isn’t much different than NASCAR, well that is until the last couple of years. People tend to think fighters make a ton of money, but the fact is they don’t. Per contest, a fighter averages to make about $8,000 with a possible bonus of $10,000 at most. That’s $18,000 max unless it’s one of the top fighters. Unlike the NBA, fighters can get cut if they don’t impress, which results in no pay, whereas the NBA players are guaranteed their pay usually even if they’re waived. It used to be that sponsorship used to go directly to the fighter; however, this is no longer the case. A sponsor has to put a lot of money out, because they have to first pay the UFC and then pay the fighter. As a result, the fighter has to work hard to get that sponsorship.
As seen some sports, sponsorship makes sense, because the athlete or their team needs it to just stay afloat. Professional basketball doesn’t need it. Between the owners, coaches and players, they get paid about the highest in comparison to any other sport.
That’s the problem with this whole discussion. The NBA doesn’t need these proposed sponsorship patches on its jerseys; instead, if Adam Silver goes through with this plan he will make the league look greedy by its fans and players for that matter. For a league who has had bad PR stemming from the gigantic salaries of its players and too frequent of lockouts, it’s a mistake and lowers the quality of the NBA product.
Commentary by Simon Mounsey