Advertisements on NBA jerseys have been a long time coming, and now that the league’s most decorated franchise has announced its partnership, the critics’ worst fears were realized Wednesday with the unveiling of a General Electric logo on the Boston Celtics’ iconic green and white uniforms.
The Philadelphia 76ers were the first to announce a three-year, $15 million partnership with StubHub, and the Sacramento Kings followed on a similar deal with Blue Diamond Almonds. The exact terms of Boston’s collaboration with GE is uncertain, but Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck told reporters at the unveiling six other owners inquired about the financial details of his team’s latest revenue stream.
Make no mistake: This is a money grab for a league swimming in dough.
When adding advertisements to NBA jerseys first became real with the negotiation of escalating parameters around an already massive $24 billion television deal in 2014, reports indicated national brands could result in a financial boon for the league’s TV partners. And GE certainly qualifies.
As part of a three-year trial period beginning in the 2017-18 season, each team is permitted to sell a 2.5-inch square patch on the left shoulder of game jerseys. The Celtics announced Wednesday “a multi-year partnership” with General Electric, which will now also serve as the team’s exclusive data and analytics partner. GE moved its headquarters to Boston last year and is a business partner with Comcast, which also owns the broadcast rights to Celtics games. The synergy, as they say, is palpable.
“GE will be woven into the fabric of the Boston Celtics both literally and figuratively,” Celtics president Rich Gotham said in a press release. “Their leadership in innovation, analytics, and technology will help us to be as competitive as we can be in everything from optimizing our facilities and equipment to player performance. Simply put, GE will make us a better and smarter basketball team and organization.”
GE will also be woven into the team’s “digital and social media content, fan engagement and enhancement, TV visible signage, scoreboard integration and promotions,” so get used to it. In the best news of the day, the Celtics and GE also plan to partner on “a series of community initiatives.”
For better or worse, there is no escaping the cursive GE logo on the shoulder of Celtics uniforms that have been so classically clean since their inception (with the exception of those godawful gray sleeved jerseys they trotted out again Tuesday night), spanning 71 years and 17 NBA championship campaigns.
The NBA has incorporated jersey ads into the WNBA, D-League and its own All-Star Game, but count Al Horford among those who “didn’t think [the Celtics] were going to do it, because of the tradition.”
“We’re lucky to be in this position, playing in this league,” Horford told the Boston Herald’s Mark Murphy. “I just hope we don’t get it covered with the 20 logos like the international teams do. Hopefully we won’t get 20. Then you won’t understand that the Celtics are there.”
Boston guard Terry Rozier offered an alternative take: “I like free money. Actually I wouldn’t say it’s free money because we’re out there wearing jerseys and representing, but I guess that’s dope.”
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