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Do NBA Jerseys come with Sponsors?

Something I have always been aware of, but just accepted is the difference between American sports jersey’s and those typically seen in European sports. The two leagues I follow closest are the NBA and the English Premier League. In the NBA you will see the name of the team in huge letters across the players chest. In the Premier League that space will be taken by a sponsor, with the club badge moved up and over the left. Change is coming though, for the last 3 NBA seasons sponsoring companies’ logos have been allowed over the left shoulder on NBA jerseys.

Since the NBA’s founding in 1946, NBA teams have traditionally not worn sponsors on their jerseys. However, that all changed before the start of the 2017/18 season as the league agreed a 3-year pilot trial with the owners in an effort to generate additional revenue. This followed on from the successful use of jersey advertising patches in the 2015 Slam Dunk Competition and on the actual Allstar Game uniforms in 2016. As a result, teams can now wear their sponsors’ logo on the left shoulder of their jerseys. The NBA is the first major American sports league to do this, the patches at 2-2.5 inches are much smaller than you would have seen for many decades on European Soccer jerseys.

Zach Lavine – Sprite Slam Dunk Champion 2015. Note the Sprite logo over his right shoulder.
Russell Westbrook – 2016 KIA Allstar Game MVP. Note the KIA logo over his right shoulder and the ADIDAS logo visible for the first time on his right.

As you can see, the NBA isn’t an entity to jump straight into these big traditional changes. No matter what the financial benefits might be. The NBA is nothing without its history. Read on below to understand how we’ve moved from sponsor free jersey’s to where we are now and get a little taste of what’s to come.

Since when do NBA jerseys have Sponsors?

Beginning with the 2017/18 season, NBA has signed an 8-year Jersey manufacturing agreement with Nike, which marks the first deal where teams will be obligated to wear the jersey manufacturers logo. Nike took over from Adidas, who had been dealing with the league since 2006 and had no such policy.  This deal is historic in a way that it marks the first of its kind on the North American soil. None of the three major American sports leagues (NFL, MLB, NHL) have opted for this venture. As you can see from the images below, the manufacturers logo is now visible over the right shoulder. The franchises chosen jersey sponsor is visible over the left.

Steph Curry – 2016/17 Season. ADIDAS
Steph Curry – 2017/18 Season. Nike.

Unlike many other major sports abroad along with European basketball, these sponsorship logos will not take a center part of the jersey.

Instead, they opted for a more minimalistic look, with a 2½ by 2½ inch patch positioned on the left shoulder. Looking at the shirt deals in soccer, it is very clear just how big of a financial benefit there is to these shirt sponsorships. Real Madrid earn €190 mil, Manchester United €161 mil, and Barcelona €160 mil annually from their collaborations. The idea is that every NBA team, no matter the market, benefits from this partnership immensely. According to the NBA, teams are to keep 50% of the revenue generated by their own patches, with the other 50 % being shared among the other 30 teams equally. That way, the smaller market teams are put in a position to gain more than the amount of their individual patches, which fits perfectly into the league’s power balance strategy. The first NBA franchise to sign a sponsorship deal with a brand were the Philadelphia 76ers, as they negotiated a $15 million, three-year deal with StubHub. Other teams were quick to follow, and here is a look at all of them:

Who Sponsors the NBA teams?

These are the known details of each of the 30 teams’ sponsorships deals for the start of the 2019/20 NBA season. Most of them are two or three year deals with some of the financial numbers still being left unreported

Team Sponsor Sponsor Headquarters Amount (by year)
Atlanta Hawks Sharecare Atlanta, Georgia, United States $2.5m-$10m
Boston Celtics General Electric Boston, Massachusets, United States more than $7m
Brooklyn Nets Infor New York, New York, United States $8 m
Cleveland Cavaliers Goodyear Akron, Ohio, United States more than $10 m
Denver Nuggets Western Union Bank Denver, Colorado, United States $5 m-$10 m
Detroit Pistons Flagstar Bank Troy, Michigan, United States $5 m-$10 m
Golden State Warriors Rakuten Setagaya City, Tokyo, Japan $20 m
Milwaukee Bucks Harley-Davidson Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States $2.5 m-$6 m
Minnesota Timberwolves Fitbit San Francisco, California, United States $3 m-$8 m
Orlando Magic Disney Burbank, California, United States $5 m-$10 m
Philadelphia 76ers Stubhub San Francisco, California, United States $5 m
Sacramento Kings Blue Diamond Almonds Sacramento, California, United States $5 m
Toronto Raptors Sun Life Toronto, Canada, United States more than $5 m
Utah Jazz Qualtrics (5 for the Fight) Provo, Utah, United States $4 m
Charlotte Hornets LandingTree Charlotte, North Carolina, United States $4 m-$4,5 m
Chicago Bulls Zeni Optical Novato, California, United States unreported
Indiana Pacers Motorola Chicago, Illinois, United States $8 m-$10 m
New York Knicks Squarespace New York, New York, United States $12 m-$14 m
Miami Heat Ultimate Software Weston, Florida, United States unreported
Washington Wizards Geico Chevy Chase, Maryland, United States unreported
Dallas Mavericks Chrime San Francisco, California, United States unreported
Houston Rockets RokiT Phones Los Angeles, California unreported
Los Angeles Clippers Bumble Austin, Texas, United States $10 m
LA Lakers Wish San Francisco, California, United States $12 m-$14 m
Memphis Grizzlies FedEx Memphis, Tennessee, United States unreported
New Orleans Pelicans Zatarain New Orleans, Louisiana, United States unreported
Oklahoma City Thunder Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States $10 m
Phoenix Suns PayPal San Jose, California, United States unreported
Portland Trail Blazers Biofreeze Warrenville, Illinois, United States unreported
San Antonio Spurs Frostbank San, Antonio, Texas, United States unreported

How successful is the NBA’s jersey patch program?

Halfway through the third year of the pilot, it was clear that the results have certainly been incredible and the NBA is sure to continue with this program in the future, looking to improve it along the way.

After this summer’s difficulties with China, the league’s international strategy was compromised and the news of the jersey patch program’s results definitely came as a huge boost in the NBA’s efforts to achieve international success just heading into the 2019/20 season. At the start of the season, 29 out of 30 teams have already completed their sponsorship deals. Only team left without sponsors were the Dallas Mavericks, and even they soon after signed the deal with Chime, assuring that the whole league was pretty much covered. Among the companies working with the league, there are some absolutely huge international names such as Disney, General Electric, FedEx, Rakuten, Rokit, Motorola etc.

Amy Brooks, president of the league’s team marketing and business operations division and chief innovation officer for the NBA commented on the achieved results: “The revenue has exceeded expectations and we think the success of the program to date will help drive value in the future. It has proven to be a unique asset that draws brands for different reasons.”. The league, all teams and brands also feel the program has been a huge success, with numbers exceeding all expectations with ease. Emilio Collins, chief business officer for Excel Sports Management, had this to say “The next phase of the deals is to maximize the marketplace. The data supports substantial increases in value. There has been phenomenal reach.”

One of the results of the initial success of this particular program is the NBA’s decision to loosen their marketing restrictions. These expanded rights will provide added value to this deal, which will allow NBA teams to charge significantly more for these jersey rights. With this expanded program, international growth is sure to guaranteed.

Do the jerseys from NBA store come with sponsors?

When purchasing an official NBA jersey you will find they come with the manufacturers, in this case Nike, logo over the right shoulder. The franchises chosen sponsor, worn over the left shoulder in game action, will usually be absent. Depending on what territory you are in and where you are buying the jersey from you may have the option to select one with the sponsorship patch included. Currently this option isn’t available outside of North America as the jersey patch trial does not currently extend to international marketing rights. Something the NBA is set to change.

Does Nike sponsor the NBA jerseys?

Yes, Nike took over from Adidas after the German company lost the bidding war in 2006. According to sources, the fee was approximately $1 billion.

After the takeover, NBA commissioner Adam Silver released a statement: “This partnership with Nike represents a new paradigm in the structure of our global merchandising business. As our exclusive on court 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 on court products”.

After working with the league since 1992 as a marketing partner, and collaborating with most of the star players including LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and others, the jersey deal was simply a logical next step. They quickly expanded on the traditional home and away jerseys, as they introduced some very creative alternatives such as the city edition jerseys, Christmas jerseys, All-Star jerseys and the alternate road ones.

 Chairman, president and CEO of Nike commented on the new partnership: “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 president and 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”.

What types of NBA jerseys are there?

Since Nike took over the business, there has been a big evolution in the variety of jerseys available to fans. It’s a perfect time to be a fan of the NBA, as you can now choose a jersey that fits you, no matter what your gender and fashion preferences are. These are some of the types of jerseys now available during the season:

  • On-Court NBA Jersey: The actual version players wear during games.
  • Replica NBA Jersey: Very similar to the On-Court version, but less expensive and accustomed to fans.
  • Swingman NBA Jersey: This is an upgraded version of the replica jerseys with more accurate details
  • Authentic NBA Jersey: This one replicates the trims, cuts and fabrics of the jerseys NBA players wear.
  • Throwback NBA Jerseys: These replicate the ones players wore in the past.
  • WNBA Jerseys: These are for the ladies, as the name suggests.