An alternate title of my article could very well have been “The NBA Proves Once Again, There’s No Such Thing As Too Much Money.”

Or “NBA To Advertisers and Marketers: We Want More Of Your Money!”

Really, you can insert any catchphrase, saying or idiom that deals with money and the almighty dollar.

Ooh, I could’ve invoked the “Gekko Clause.” You know the one about greed being good and all.

Oh well.

Did it really come to anyone’s surprise that the NBA has decided to allow advertisements to appear on their uniforms? It surely did not surprise this over-caffeinated, slightly jaded writer one iota.

Lance Madden wrote a great piece on the NBA becoming the first of the four professional North American sports leagues to allow advertising on a game worn uniform. He takes a Pro/Con look at this from a fashion standpoint and he makes some very valid points for each side. He closes his piece, however, with Pro/Con hybrid if you will, wondering aloud if the NBA is selling out: “Until recent years, the big four sports of the United States have prided themselves on being traditional. Sure, rule changes and play styles alter from decade to decade, but selling sponsorships on jerseys is an act of selling out to many critics. When it comes down to it, however, this is a business, and changes sometimes need to be made when running a business in order to make more money.”

Indeed it is a business Lance, indeed it is.

Which is why my question, upon hearing the news – was ‘what took them so long?’ Ads already appear on on NFL practice jerseys and Major League Baseball has allowed ads on uniforms in certain games played in Japan. And as for the NBA, ads have appeared on NBA practice jerseys since 2009. That’s a whole three years ago, Mr. Stern. Really, what took you so long?

Oh wait, it seems that this is merely tentative. The Board of Governors merely tentatively approved this measure – the placement of ads on the shoulders of team jerseys beginning with the 2013-14 season. It seems a formal vote will be held in September.

I wonder how that vote will go?

NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver: “This is very much a loose projection, but our view is, on an aggregate basis league-wide, our 30 teams could generate a total of $100 million by selling that patch on the jersey, per season.”

I think I know how the vote will go.

Given the chance to make an additional $100 million per season, do you really think this has a chance of not being approved? If you do, you are arguably the naivest person I know. In fact I’ll go so far as to call you Nancy Naive or Nate Naive whatever the case may be. Either way, gimme a break and get real.

Silver made the comment during a press conference last week announcing the tentative ad-allowing movement, or whatever you want to call it. He went on to say that he thinks “it’s fair to say that our teams were excited about the opportunity and think there is potentially a big opportunity in the marketplace to put a two-by-two (inch) patch on the shoulder of our jerseys.”

Silver is of course spot on when he says there is a big opportunity in the marketplace for it will allow advertisers to promote their brands in and on another heretofore untouchable piece of real estate. Not only will the ad be on the game jerseys worn by the players, it will also appear on the jerseys sold in stores, too.

I wonder if the NBA asked their fans what they thought of all this?

Oh I’m sure they – the NBA – asked fans their opinions in one way, shape or form. To be honest I don’t know if they did or not but it really doesn’t matter, does it? You honestly think the NBA and its players are going to turn down a chance to make – as Lance tells us in his piece (he breaks the potential additional revenue quite nicely) – $2,710 per player, per game?

The Lines Continue To Blur & The Bastions Keep Falling 

Earlier this year I wrote a piece entitled The Lines Between Social Media And Sports Continue To Blur. It was about the Philadelphia Wings of the National Lacrosse League becoming the first professional league to allow its players to replace their last names on the backs of their uniforms with their Twitter handles. This particular line continues to blur pretty much every day as more and more athletes/players are taking to Twitter to announce everything from a new contract to their being released to details of the latest, sordid scandal.

While that line is blurring, so to is the line between sports and advertising when it comes to real estate. Plain and simple. With the NBA allowing advertising on its uniforms, any open space is now open for discussion and consideration. Another bastion of advertising-free real estate is gone, forever. Well at least it will be when the NBA Board of Governors make it official later this year.

I can remember growing up watching Philadelphia Flyers hockey games from the old Spectrum and not seeing a spec of advertising either on the ice or along the boards surrounding the ice. Today of course the boards are engulfed with advertising as is the ice itself.

Look, I am not the aforementioned Nate Naive. I realize other leagues around the world have been allowing advertising on uniforms for a long time now. And NASCAR drivers are literally a walking/driving billboard. I get it. I really do.

And maybe I am old-school but there’ something about seeing “Eat At Joe’s” on the patch of a Lakers or a Sixers jersey that just rubs me the wrong way. I just can’t see Doctor J rising up in one of his classic sky walking moves wearing a uniform with “Chico’s Bail Bonds” on it.

I am also not Nate Naive in the sense that I don’t want to bite the hand that feeds me. I am in advertising and if an advertiser wants to hire me to write an ad that appears on an NBA jersey, I will gladly do it.

Last September I openly wondered Is There Such A Thing As Too Much Advertising? In my somewhat tongue-in-cheek piece I made reference to the fact that a certain golden-arched hamburger joint would not cease to exist if it spent just a tad less on advertising. I also made reference to a piece done by Adam Swann a few days prior entitled Suffering: The New Ad Medium.

Adam’s opening paragraph is quite apropos for this context and is quite prophetic: “There are few corners of society and everyday life where brands have not jostled for our attention. Media placement for brands is increasingly ingenious and even in the most unlikely locations we may now see an ad for some product or other.”

Advertising on uniforms may not be the ingenious placement Adam refers to but it is indeed an unlikely location – at least it is to this old-schooler.
Named one of the Top 100 Influencers In Social Media (#41) bySocial Technology ReviewSteve Olenski is a freelance writer/blogger currently looking for full-time work. He has worked on some of the biggest brands in the world and has over 20 years experience in advertising and marketing. He lives in Philly and can be reached via email,TwitterLinkedIn or his website.