The swoosh is coming to your favorite player's uniform in a little more than two years. The NBA announced Wednesday afternoon that Nike will become the league's official on-court apparel provider starting with the 2017-18 season. The deal starts in the 2017-18 season and runs eight years.
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“This partnership with NIKE represents a new paradigm in the structure of our global merchandising business,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “As our exclusive oncourt apparel provider, NIKE will be instrumental in our collective efforts to grow the game globally while applying the latest in technology to the design of our uniforms and oncourt products.”
NIKE has a rich history of innovating and leading from the front, and has supported some of the greatest former and current NBA and WNBA players. The company has been a global marketing partner of the NBA since 1992 and expands its rights over eight years under the new agreement, where NIKE will become the first NBA apparel partner to have its logo appear on NBA uniforms. NIKE will also have the global rights to design and manufacture authentic and Swingman jerseys as well as oncourt warm-ups and shooting shirts.
“We’re excited to bring the full power of our global reach, innovation and creativity to partner with the NBA and grow the game in a way only NIKE can,” said NIKE, Inc. President & CEO Mark Parker. “In NIKE, Jordan and Converse we have three of the most connected brands in the world, and look forward to making the global growth of the game a successful strategy for both the NBA and NIKE.”
Darren Rovell of ESPN tweeted the terms of the agreement:
Nike will pay NBA about $125M a year for official uniform supplier deal, which is a 245% increase from what adidas paid for previous deal.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) June 10, 2015
Adidas, the previous partner, announced in March that it would not seek renewal of its deal with the NBA (perhaps due to that price tag). That opened the door for Nike, the assumed successor. As noted in the press release, Nike has an existing relationship with the league and already served in this same capacity for USA Basketball. For that matter, several franchises still play in jerseys designed by Nike more than a decade ago. They also have a major presence on players' feet — in December 2013, Forbes noted that 278 NBA players endorsed Nike (not counting Jordan Brand), or 207 more than runner-up Adidas. The new apparel deal is more an extension of dominance than a full-on shift in the brand's prominence.
However, Silver is right to claim that this deal represents a new paradigm, because the presence of the swoosh on jerseys is the first blow in the league's ongoing attempt to add advertisements to uniforms. This discussion has gone on for at least three years, with Silver declaring the adoption of advertisements "inevitable" (despite being in a position to stop them, if here so inclined). The NBA's mammoth new TV deal allows for shared uniform and broadcast advertising agreements, and that sort of preparation suggests that such promotion is on its way.
A swoosh on a jersey is not a traditional form of advertising, if only because Nike will actually produce these uniforms. But it's still brand promotion, to the point where any close-up image of an NBA star will now feature a prominent logo of a major international corporation. That goes for players endorsed by Nike or not, unless Stephen Curry starts playing with an Under Armour flag draped around him at all times.
It would be hyperbole to say that this is some kind of backdoor form of jersey advertising, because Nike puts the swoosh on pretty much everything they make, the NBA rarely neglects to announce and promote the details of corporate partnerships, and we could have legitimate jersey ads in two years anyway. Whatever the case, it's worth emphasizing exactly what Nike is paying for with this deal. The new partnership confirms that the company is as much a part of the contemporary NBA as the ball itself.
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