Thursday, May 17, 2012

Professional Jersey Sponsors: Inevitable, but Good or Bad?

"I'm tired of being unable to buy clothing that doesn't have writing and printing all over it. Insipid sayings, pseudo-wisdom, cute slogans, team logos, designer names, brand trademarks, small business ego trips; the marketing pigs and advertising swine have turned us all into walking billboards. You see some аѕѕhоlе walkin' by, and he's got on a fruity Dodger hat and a Hard Rock Cafe T-shirt. Of course you can't see the shirt if he's wearing his hot-ѕhіt Chicago Bulls jacket. The one that only 50 million other loser jосk-sniffers own. And since this cretinous sports fan/consumer zombie is completely for sale to anyone, he rounds out his ensemble with FedEx sneakers, ValuJet socks, Wall Street Journal sweatpants, a Starbucks jockstrap, and a Microsoft соndоm with Bill Gates's head on the end of it.  No one in this country owns his personal appearance anymore. America has become a nation of obedient consumers, actively participating in their own degradation."
- George Carlin

I agree that the above is hilarious.  I also agree that our country is built on capitalism.  In a free marketplace, consumers drive demand and businesses react.  Businesses also try to be proactive because they understand their consumer.  No matter what we wear, we are fashioning someone else's product.  The only way not to is Adam & Eve it butt naked.  Rest in Peace George because I know you would hate what's coming next and I wish you were still here to joke about it.
Never thought I'd feature the WNBA but I do like the Bing jersey!
In the middle of April of this year, there was a presentation to the board of governors of the NBA.  They featured 6 mannequin torsos of corporately sponsored NBA jerseys.  If the league goes through with this, they will be the first of the 4 major sports to prominently display corporate advertising on their uniforms.  While NASCAR, IndyCar, golf, and professional soccer all already do this, it will be a major change to what we are used to.  There were 3 variations of jerseys presented to the NBA brass: a jersey with the team name stripped away and replaced by a corporate name; a second with a company name beneath the uniform number; and a third with the corporation's logo on the jersey strap.

The NBA's deputy commissioner Adam Silver said the following,
"If we add sponsor logos to jerseys, we recognize that some of our fans will think we've lost our minds. But the NBA is a global business and logos on jerseys are well established in other sports and commonplace outside the U.S.''
Adam is 100% correct.  The entire world already does this.  I hate soccer but their jerseys actually don't look that bad!  Last time I checked, soccer is the most popular sport in the world.  Doesn't seem to be hurting their product.  This is the last untapped resource for sponsors.  They have naming rights of stadiums, they have soft drink pouring rights, they have the official rent-a-car of leagues, but they don't have uniforms.  Horizon Media recently reported that leagues are leaving a potential $370 million on the table by NOT doing this.  I know we all don't want to see our teams' logos disappear for something different but not all our teams are making enough money to even exist anymore.

Do you know who this is? hint: AIG
Having studied this subject for nearly 6 years, I was initially opposed to this idea.  In fact, I know Boomer hates this idea.  He's old school, a traditionalist in every sense of the word.  We die hard fans want to believe it's still about the game and the sport.  Wake up call folks.  It's 2012 and the sporting industry generates billions of dollars each year.  Teams are run by multi-millionaires and billionaires.  As soon as we started to agree that athletes would make millions, we have to find adequate sources of revenue to keep that up.  Is it going to be scary?  Yes.  Will it initially frustrate you while you watch your favorite team?  Yes.  It shocks me that our 4 big leagues are the last to do so.  This is America! We are usually the ones taking the big risks, going against the norm.  For some reason, jerseys have stayed sacred.

The NBA will be the first to do this, followed, I would think almost immediately, by the NHL.  The NBA already has D-League sponsored jerseys and practice jerseys.  The NHL has huge sponsorship right at center ice.  Honestly, I don't think it's that big of deal for the NFL.  You can only see their numbers anyway.  The MLB will most certainly be the last to do it.  What's your biggest fear?  Below:
No worries, this won't happen
Teams aren't going to do that to your precious jersey.  In a crowded marketplace already, teams will be looking for presenting rights as uniform sponsors.  This isn't minor league hockey in Sweden.  Sponsors know what their consumers want.  Teams know they don't want to alienate their fanbase.  This will lead to an agreement of how the jerseys should look.  In my opinion, there's only one way to do this.  All out.  Don't start with something small and slowly build into it.  If you make the change, make the change!  This will sting the purists out there like Yankees, Cubs, Red Sox, Lakers, Celtics, Cowboys, Steelers, Patriots, Bruins, Blackhawks, and Red Wings fans.

I get it.  We as fans have invested plenty of time and certainly money on our sports teams.  We want to be able to wear our teams with pride by displaying the name and colors.  For a lot of us, the merchandise visualizes our loyalty to a city.  But I also know it's just a sport.  At the end of the day, no matter what the team looks like, we are still going to be cheering the performance, not the uniform.  We aren't going to notice the logos as we sit in the room full of our buddies watching the big game because the best part of sports is the ACTUAL game.  It's drama, it's the highest of highs and lowest of lows.  Living in Cleveland, I talk to people all the time that say "THIS IS OUR YEAR."  It's the city's motto.  Just because they may not look like the Browns, Cavs, or Indians on clothing, doesn't mean they go away.

I'm all for it, what say you Bottom Dwellers?
Golden State Warriors
Not bad...right?!
Somebody's gotta pay for those empty seats