When the NBA's board of governors -- a group of team owners that will convene with no fan and/or player representation -- meets in April, the participants will actively discuss possibly putting ads on NBA jerseys. As it currently is with most European football teams and WNBA squads, the ads would likely be prominent and, to most NBA followers, jarring. And we don't mind falling in line with the obvious reaction in pointing out that the brand abuse and cynical sellout would in no way be worth the potential millions these ads would raise in terms of sponsor exposure.
That is to say, "Can the conversation now, you greedy [blanks]."
We don't like mentioning brands by name here at BDL, nor essentially acting as a shill for shoe companies or products whenever they have a video or product release to pass along. But we're not stupid, and we know that the only reason you can read this site for free (or any of the various newspapers and publications we derive stories from on a daily basis) is because we are ad-supported. We try to walk that fine line, reverently. And ads on jerseys, we're sorry, is jumping far, far over that line. Sports Business Journal (via Pro Basketball Talk) details the thinking of the minds that are considering jumping this line:
Of course, the most important issue is also the most basic. "The most appropriate question and the answer we're all waiting for is, 'What is it worth?'" said Golden State Warriors president and COO Rick Welts, who did the WNBA's first uniform advertising deal between the Phoenix Mercury and LifeLock in 2009. "I am not suggesting this is an easy issue, but I feel like it is inevitable. We just have to agree on value and what it would look like."
Soccer teams in various continents run ads all over their jerseys, and because it's been an expected norm for decades, nobody bats an eye. Motor sports from open-wheel racing to NASCAR have plastered logos all over their cars and racing gear for just as long, and it's been a source for tinsel town parody for more than three decades (culminating in 2006's 'Talladega Nights,' a film that, redneck jokes aside, was more Adam McKay's brand of commentary on product placement than anything else) and nobody seems to mind the invasion of sorts. Baseball, football and NBA warm-up jerseys all boast the logo of the brand that created them (in the NBA's case, a shoe company) already.
This doesn't mean we're allowed to let this sort of thinking seep toward something that appears eventually acceptable. We already pay for League Pass, we pay for cable, we pay for the Internet and most of us do not pay for NBA tickets because they're insanely expensive. To lop off a few more million (Kurt Helin, at PBT, estimates that an ad placement would be worth about $31 million to a company in terms of exposure) and betray the sensibilities of fans that are already spending money that they probably shouldn't in order to "follow" the team they love?
"Crass" isn't a strong enough word.
I don't mind going over the top with this. Ad placement on jerseys can be argued away a thousand times over in light of thousands of other things just in the NBA realm that we should be concerned with at a higher pitch, but that shouldn't preclude NBA fans from letting it be known they find the idea behind this sickening. Assuming you do. And, as somebody who loves telling people what to do, you should.
Welts is quoted as pointing out that the possible application of ads is "not a 0-to-60 rush," but that shouldn't make anyone uneasy about potential placement feel any happier about the situation. This is how advertising executives work. These things always start off subversively, and before you know it there isn't an arena in the NBA that is working without a corporate sponsor. Even though you and I both know that you've never chosen to visit Staples because you've heard the name "Staples Center" four trillion times between 1999 and this month. You go there because you need printer paper.
You're allowed to raise a hackle or 12 over this. Even something as slight as a small swoosh or golden arch placed at the mid-thigh of a player's shorts is a start, and the "start" is what has to be stopped. You're already paying enough to a league that is rolling in the dough, with record ratings and a growing global audience. You don't need each player on your favorite team to be indirectly endorsing anything else while you watch the one part of an NBA court that doesn't feature some sort of sponsor-driven annoyance.
We don't need anything else to distract us from the game.
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