It was announced that Nike and the National Basketball Association have come to an agreement on a new licensed apparel deal that will make Nike the official company of the NBA for the next eight seasons. Reports put the price tag of the deal at $125 million per year beginning in 2017-18 when the league’s current deal with Adidas expires.
While on the surface it may seem as though this new relationship between the Nike apparel company and the NBA is simply a matter of a pair of corporations making a ton of money with each other’s help, but a few possible outcomes that could affect the fans.
The first and most pressing is the idea that this new deal will open the door for what American sports fans have dreaded for years: the inevitable ads-on-jerseys.
Even if you don’t consider a Nike swoosh an ad on a jersey, that may be the stepping stone or slippery slope necessary to start a full-fledged advertising revolution that has thus far been avoided in all the major professional sports in America. Soccer teams all across the world already have ads on their jerseys, and people still purchase this merchandise. Whether it’s a pompous attitude or just a feeling of disgust though, that idea seems idiotic in America. Who would buy that?!
The idea of purchasing a jersey of my favorite player with advertising sprawled across the front does personally sound grotesque. Why bother when I can instead just buy a Mazda t-shirt or some such nonsense? But this feels like a problem with the newness of the idea and not the idea itself. I wouldn’t have a problem with a Nike swoosh on my jersey, so it is just a matter of time before the next step is also tolerable.
This is what makes this Nike – NBA deal so intriguing. It was almost the perfect step towards full-out jersey ads. Most people probably assume NBA jerseys already had apparel symbols on them, the Adidas lines in this current case. But they didn’t. Unless we’re talking about a special All-Star game jersey or a replica jersey in a department store that have logos on the tags, the legit in-game jerseys were doused with nothing more than a Jerry West logo patch. They were always clean and pristine.
Again, a swoosh won’t change that ideal in many people’s minds, but what about if they began to write “Nike” on the back neck? What if that was moved to the front corner and eventually smack dab in the middle, a la European soccer? These are the natural steps of progression.
Another outcome that has to be expected when Nike is involved is revamped merchandising in general. If the deal allows, Nike may go crazy with new colors and new designs of NBA products just to create demand. The company has done the same thing in college football for years now. It would be foolish to expect that not to transfer.
One of the main “new” designs to be expected is another try at the sleeved jerseys. Why? Because sleeved jerseys sell better than tank tops. Normal folks walking around the streets feel more comfortable and look more natural in a shirt with sleeves on it, especially if they don’t have the muscle definition of whichever player’s jersey they are sporting. This could mean a transition to the sleeved jerseys full-time in the actual NBA games as well. After all, no one wants a replica jersey from a store if it doesn’t replicate what the real ones look like.
It is worth mentioning that the entirety of this new relationship means Nike will also have licensed apparel for the NBDL and the WNBA. The NBDL already has company logos on the corner of its jerseys, while the WNBA has already moved completely into the modern age with company advertising directly on the fronts of its jerseys. These two leagues will most likely continue to do so and may also act as trial areas for Nike to try whatever other wacky campaigns it may have up its jersey sleeve.
These coming ideas are all business moves that will make bank for Nike and the NBA. They also don’t totally take away anything from the fan other than aesthetic preferences. In today’s sports-business world, that is as close to a net positive as the common fan can get.