NBA Says Yes: Should Sports Marketers Support Jersey Ads? Gary Parkinson November 10th, 2015 Responsiveness is very important in the marketing industry. Being a responsive marketer means adapting to changes by introducing more effective solutions.An overwhelming number of web users are increasingly irritated by targeted advertising that disrupts online or mobile browsing experiences. The rise of adblock software forced brands to adjust their communication strategies by investing resources in less disruptive communications, such as content marketing solutions.The rate of online advertising is on the decline but brands are still spending millions, sometimes billions of dollars to broadcast their logos on television networks. Some companies have budgets for specific sports marketing and advertising purposes, which involves paying team owners for the right to imprint logos on the walls or boards of stadiums and arenas. These logos are prominently featured throughout televised games. Sometimes a strategy that is new in some markets has been practiced for years in other regions. North American marketers are anticipating a new option to advertise during professional sports games following a trial run in February 2016.The NBA All Star Game Will Feature Jersey AdsNorth America’s professional basketball league made an announcement in the opening week of the 2015-16 NBA season. The 2016 NBA All Star Game, scheduled on February 13th 2016, will mark the formal introduction of on-jersey ads into the game. The league approved the placement of a Kia Motors ad on the upper left chest of all star jerseys during the 2016 and 2017 NBA All Star games. The Wall Street Journal broke the news and speculated that the all star ads could be the first step towards on-jersey advertising in the NBA regular season. This decision also means that on-jersey advertising will debut in one of North America’s Big Four professional sports leagues.The Business Of Professional SportsEvery team within a professional sports league is owned by a group of business executives or a wealthy individual. Ownership invests capital into the development and promotion of their team and subsequently earns a seat on the league’s Board of Governors. The Board of Governors oversees all operations within their particular league and votes on decisions that will affect the future of their sport.Sports fans consider their game(s) of choice to be an entertaining outlet, an opportunity to connect with friends and communities of fans who share a passion for the team. Team owners and executives approach sports from a different perspective. Their primary concern is growing the business of their franchise and the sport itself, and are always keen to add new sources of revenue to increase profitability. The NBA Board of Governors is betting that jersey advertising will augment returns on existing marketing campaigns. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) researched the sports marketing industry and determined that franchises will earn more profits from media or corporate sponsorship than standard ticket sales beginning in 2018. If team owners are forecasting less revenue from standard ticket sales, they require new sources of revenue to make up for the shortfall. In some ways, jersey advertising is the league’s attempt to make up for projected losses.ESPN & Turner Sports Responsible For All Star Game AdsAll four of North America’s largest leagues have weighed the pros and cons of on-jersey ads. The NHL, in an early indication of the NBA’s decision, has debated bringing jersey advertising into the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, though a final decision has yet to be made. However, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has confirmed that there are no plans to introduce jersey advertising to the regular season of NHL hockey at this time.The Sports Network (TSN) reported that the NBA’s nine-year $24 billion agreement with ESPN and Turner Sports included an option for Turner to sell on-jersey ad space for the NBA All Star Game. Turner then sold that ad space to Kia though the exact dollar amount of that deal is currently unknown.NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was a key player in the negotiations. Unlike his predecessor Daniel Stern, a traditionalist commissioner, Silver believes jersey advertising is “inevitable” and is a vocal proponent of modern sports marketing. The NBA Commissioner says examples of successful on-jersey advertising strategies exist in European and North American soccer leagues as well as within motor racing organizations like Nascar and the F1. Silver has also indicated that if there is little fan backlash against the all star jersey ads then the NBA will begin to introduce on-jersey advertising into the regular season.Are Jersey Ads The Right Move For Sports Marketers?According to PwC, the NBA Board of Governors believes there are profits to be made by investing in new promotional solutions. Ticket prices, especially in larger metropolitan markets, are at all-time highs yet fans can still see their favourite games thanks to pay-per-view sports packages and online or mobile streaming.Some owners believe that corporate sponsors will pay significant sums of money to target fans with ads as they stream games on their computers or mobile devices. However, a growing number of smartphone and tablet owners are actively blocking the exact types of pop-up or retargeted ads that sports executives want to deploy.If the NBA moves forward with on-jersey advertising in regular season basketball, teams will still earn the necessary revenue to expand operations without utilizing disruptive online and mobile advertising. Sports marketers can create enhanced experiences with compelling content to excite fans and build communities rather than drive away followers with disruptive messaging.Commissioner Silver and other members of the NBA Board of Governors believe jersey advertising is not only inevitable but necessary to continue expanding North America’s professional basketball association. However, there are groups of players and fans who are vocally opposed to on-jersey ads who subscribe to the notion that the only advertising that belongs on a jersey should be the team logo itself.