That big red rectangle — which, as many have noted, doesn’t exactly meld seamlessly into the minimalist black-and-white design aesthetic that Jay-Z and the Nets brought to Brooklyn five years ago — belongs to Infor, an “enterprise software provider and strategic technology partner for more than 90,000 organizations worldwide.” It is also, according to Scott Soshnick of Bloomberg, a “closely held software company backed by Koch Industries Inc.,” the investment arm of billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, which has spent nearly $120 million on federal lobbying efforts and $40 million on direct contributions to political candidates, with the vast majority of that money supporting Republican tickets, according to Open Secrets.
The company will pay $8 million annually for the deal under the league’s three-year pilot program, according to a person familiar with the terms who asked for anonymity because the information is not public. As part of the tie-up, Infor will also provide data analytics and technology to support the team’s business operations, fan experience initiatives and player performance.
The Nets are the fourth NBA team to announce a jersey ad deal, following the Philadelphia 76ers’ pact with StubHub, the Sacramento Kings’ agreement with Blue Almond Diamonds and the Boston Celtics’ recently announced contract with General Electric. As NBA salary cap expert Albert Nahmad noted Wednesday, the Nets’ annual haul from their deal with Infor looks to be the richest reported so far:
More from Soshnick:
“Infor will soon become the main artery of our company, one that connects both business and basketball,” said Brett Yormark, the chief executive officer of Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment, which manages several sports properties including the Nets. […]
“This isn’t about sponsorship,” said [Infor President Stephan] Scholl. “It’s really about making them win more games with my name on their jerseys. That’s a great message for us and our customers.”
The Nets won 21 games last season. They handed the Boston Celtics the No. 3 pick in the 2016 draft, and don’t control their own first-round picks in either of the next two drafts, thanks to one of the great swindlings of our age. They are currently the worst team in the NBA, entering Wednesday at 9-43. It might take quite a while for them to “win more games with [Infor’s] name on their jerseys,” but evidently, Scholl and his associates, like rebuild-focused general manager Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson, are in it for the long haul.
Discussion about turning jerseys into billboards has been going on for years, 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. Even longtime opponents like former Commissioner David Stern had to stand up and take notice at that price point.
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, for the last two years, 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 recently ratified 2017 collective bargaining agreement — the Board of Governors last April approved the sale of jersey sponsorships “beginning with the 2017-18 season, as part of a three-year pilot program.”
Based on what the 76ers, Kings, Celtics and Nets have been able to get for their jersey ads, the $100 million revenue estimate might wind up being waaaaaaay low:
… which would have an impact on the league’s salary cap moving forward:
Asked last month for his take on wearing a GE logo on his kelly-green gear, Celtics guard Terry Rozier said, “I like free money.” The commissioner, the owners, and the players who get a 51 percent split of that sweet, sweet Infor cash feel the same way, whether fans do or not.
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