The Atlanta Hawks on Thursday became the 13th NBA team to announce a sponsorship deal for the new advertising patches that NBA teams will start wearing on their jerseys next season. They’ve inked a deal with Sharecare — an Atlanta-based “digital health company” co-founded in 2010 by Jeff Arnold, the tech entrepreneur who founded WebMD and HowStuffWorks, and surgeon-turned-talk-show-host Dr. Mehmet Oz — that will put a small rectangular logo on the left shoulder of Hawks jerseys for the 2017-18 campaign.
Here’s a closer look:
Closer look at new ShareCare advertising patch, which will appear on Hawks jerseys this season. pic.twitter.com/PRcWQkZUiS
— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) August 17, 2017
As first reported by Zach Klein of Atlanta ABC affiliate WSB-TV and Tim Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the deal will span five years, two more than the current length of the NBA’s “pilot program” for jersey ads. Even if the league should decide to 86 the patches in three years’ time, though, the team and the sponsor say they’ve got a vision for a “movement” aimed at “making Atlanta one of the healthiest communities and Georgia one of the healthiest states in the country.” Planned community initiatives include “pop-up health engagements, unique co-branded digital and social campaigns and content, and the introduction of wellness programs to give people an easier way to access care in a time when the pursuit of good health can be overwhelming and expensive,” and Sharecare will have all sorts of brand visibility and signage inside Philips Arena.
How much Sharecare will pay for the chance to kickstart its “movement” on the Hawks’ uniforms remains unclear. Seven of their predecessors in striking agreements — the Philadelphia 76ers, Sacramento Kings, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Utah Jazz, Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors — will all reportedly clear between $5 million to $10 million per year in revenues from the new patches. An eighth, the Milwaukee Bucks, hasn’t disclosed its take, though team president Peter Feigin said in a television interview prior to the unveiling of the team’s Harley Davidson patches that “revenue from jersey ads could bring in $2.5 [million] to $6 million per year, depending on the team.”
Four others — the Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic, Detroit Pistons and Denver Nuggets — didn’t release any figures on their ad agreements. Magic CEO Alex Martins told the Orlando Sentinel that his team’s deal is “not at the very top in terms of its value, but in the upper echelon in terms of value of the [other] deals.”
Sharecare CEO Arnold offered a similarly cagey assessment of his company’s outlay, saying it’s “in the range” of the other reported deals while declining to offer specifics.
“We’re not the lowest, and we’re not the highest,” he told the AJC.
European soccer leagues have featured on-jersey advertisements for years, as have North American concerns like Major League Soccer and the Canadian Football League. Discussion about turning NBA jerseys into billboards has been going on for years, too, but it started gaining serious momentum back in 2009, when the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and Los Angeles Sparks reached agreements to promote sponsors on their game uniforms. The NBA then opened the door to teams selling ad space on their practice jerseys. In the spring of 2010, jersey ads came to the D-League; the following year, the big league started more seriously considering adopting ads.
The NBA’s Board of Governors remained divided on the ads, but some individual teams were intrigued by the prospect of tapping into a new revenue stream that some estimates pegged at more than $100 million. At that price point, even longtime opponents like former Commissioner David Stern had to stand up and take notice.
The NBA later floated test balloons like logos in place of players’ names on the backs of D-League playoff uniforms in 2012, chest patches and lower-back patches worn by rookies and sophomores during the Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star Weekend, and Kia logos on the front of NBA All-Star uniforms.
In 2014, Commissioner Adam Silver proclaimed the introduction of patches on the fronts of teams’ game jerseys “inevitable,” and likely to come within the next five years. With Nike set to take over the NBA’s apparel contract, bringing their swoosh to unis, and the NBA already deep into considering how jersey ads would impact the league’s partnerships with both the broadcast entities that paid $24 billion for the rights to air NBA games and the players who’ll actually be wearing the logos — proceeds from “sales of jersey patch rights” was added to the definition of basketball-related income split between the league and players that’s included in the 2017 collective bargaining agreement — the Board of Governors in 2016 approved the sale of jersey sponsorships “beginning with the 2017-18 season, as part of a three-year pilot program.”
With the Hawks now on the board, 17 of 30 NBA teams have yet to announce a jersey patch sponsorship for the season ahead. More will likely reach agreements before the start of the season on Oct. 17, but it’s also possible that teams could carry negotiations on into the new year, and debut a new patch in the middle of the season.
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