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Eric Freeman

Corporate logos on jerseys would be a mixed bag financially

Eric Freeman
Ball Don't Lie

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North American sports fans often complain about the increased role of corporate sponsorships on the game-viewing experience, but the fact of the matter is that our leagues seem to have a relatively quaint relationship with business compared to others around the world. In top-level European soccer, for instance, teams have worn jerseys festooned with corporate logos for decades. The WNBA has gradually followed suit over the past few years, but as of now none of our continent's top leagues have joined them.

It's likely only a matter of time, though, especially when owners get wind of the potential profits. With that in mind, Horizon Media has estimated the figures, as noted by Lee Igel for Forbes.com (via PBT):

Given the numbers noted above, what is to be made of the finding that in the NBA the Los Angeles Lakers reign with $4,059,744, while the next two positions are held by the New York Knicks at $2,775,182 and Boston Celtics at $2,718,950?

"The numbers above" refers to the potential windfall for franchises in Major League Baseball and the National Football League, which in some cases exceed the Lakers' figure by a factor of three. But that difference ultimately matters little compared to intra-league numbers -- the inter-league estimates just tell us things about sport popularity that we already knew.

The problem here isn't that the Lakers will make less than the Yankees, but that they'll make far more than the Grizzlies. As in the case of European soccer, the rich will get richer while the poor only become slightly less poor. Except the divide could be even starker in the NBA, where teams play so often that a random contest between the Nets and Kings doesn't capture widespread attention like a rarer and more significant match that finds Fulham away on a cold winter night away to Stoke.

This disparity in income doesn't mean that jersey sponsorships will create a great divide between haves and haves-not -- it just means that the league will have to guard against any potential problem. The answer, as usual, is improved revenue sharing, which will make sure everyone gets paid while not throwing the league's competitive balance even more out of whack. Yes, you can call this socialism if you want, but it's also the structure that gives every NFL team a viable shot at the playoffs at the start of every season. Parity has its problems, certainly, yet so does a situation where only the same handful of teams have a legitimate shot at the championship every season.

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