Not content to assume that the product carries enough value, professional sports teams have moved to hand out perks to season-ticket holders whenever possible. From the fancy (e.g. signed memorabilia) to the unimpressive (e.g. team-branded mousepads, the socks of this particular gift-giving season), franchises do what they can to show their most financially loyal fans that they appreciate their commitment. It's a small display of thanks, and particularly useful when the team in question doesn't provide much reason to cheer.
Yet these gifts remain somewhat private, in the sense that their existence is not broadcast to television audiences on a nightly basis. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Milwaukee Bucks apparently want to change that relationship. According to a report from John Lombardo of SportsBusiness Journal, those two teams want to put the names of season-ticket holders on their home courts (via PBT):
Two NBA teams are awaiting league approval of a plan that would put the names of season-ticket holders on their playing floors.
The teams, Cleveland and Milwaukee, intend the plan as another benefit tied to their year-round membership and fan-loyalty clubs. Details are still being finalized and must be approved by the league, but the program would allow for the names of the season-ticket holders who are part of the loyalty clubs to be placed on the apron that surrounds the playing floor — or possibly even on the playing floor itself.
One source said the Cavaliers are proposing to put the account holders’ names on the sideline aprons while the Bucks are considering putting the names near the half-court line on the playing floor. The locations are subject to change depending on league response to the proposal. [...]
The idea also advances what NBA teams already have been doing with their fan-loyalty clubs, looking for ways to increase season-ticket sales by adding benefits beyond the game tickets. The Cavs’ season-ticket club, known as Wine & Gold United, offers year-round benefits such as conference calls with owner Dan Gilbert and meet-and-greet events with the Cavs’ basketball staff.
As Lombardo notes elsewhere, franchises in many sports have already brought attention to season-ticket holders with inscriptions on bricks, so this move is really just an extension of a preexisting idea. If that precedent serves as a guide, there's also reason to believe that the execution could be quite tasteful, with the names blending into the environment of the court instead of serving as some garish eyesore visible to anyone with passable vision.
Nevertheless, the Cavaliers and Bucks have chosen to bring an aspect of their public relations department to an area previously considered somewhat sacred. On the other hand, the NBA appears to consider such decisions increasingly acceptable, with the league allowing advertising on the baseline and the backboard this summer. These two teams are really just extending that logic to something more specific to their own operations. Plus, it's actually more principled than the advertising decision, in that they are theoretically rewarding loyalty in addition to profits.
The major takeaway, though, is that the court (and, by extension, or experience of the NBA) is becoming a place for something more than the pure enjoyment of basketball. Organizations are beginning to become more brazen in their acknowledgment of their own status as entities in a billion-dollar business. It will take some getting used to, but there's a benefit to being open about the commercial interests of the league. The NBA has never been wholly about the purity of on-court competition, and it's useful to keep that point in mind as we attempt to discuss the state of the league.