When the NBA Jersey Patch Program was mentioned over a decade ago, deputy commissioner Adam Silver believed it would bring in a combined revenue of $100M across all 30 NBA teams. At first, fans feared this would merge the NBA with the corporate world. Critics drew comparisons to European soccer teams and worried brand placements would overshadow the team or city across the players’ chests. But sponsorship was nothing new within the sport: companies already sponsored basketball venues like the United Center, Barclays Center, and the Kia Center. It was only a matter of time before sponsored NBA jerseys became the new norm.
Teams and Sponsors Win Big
In the current NBA landscape, the program is projected to bring in over $250M annually, with innovation occurring year by year within jersey patch sponsorships. Last season, these sponsorships comprised nearly 15% of overall NBA sponsorship revenue, which netted a total $1.6B. And the benefits are mutual: companies with their logo on an NBA jersey win, too. They generate constant brand exposure to the millions of fans watching worldwide and earn opportunities to directly impact the fan experience at NBA games.
Fostering Fan Connections
The NBA first rolled out jersey patch sponsorships back in 2017, with two-thirds of teams joining this new-age marketing mechanism. Flash forward to this season, and fans will notice only three teams without them. Teams like the Orlando Magic and the Toronto Raptors have remained loyal to their sponsors for all seven seasons. Although teams may change sponsors, they typically stick with local brands and resonate with their fans and culture. For example, the Utah Jazz are in their first year of a jersey patch sponsorship deal with LiveView Technologies, a Utah-built and based national provider of innovative life safety and security technology. Ryan Smith, governor of the Utah Jazz, said, “We’re excited to feature the LVT logo on our jerseys and continue using that prominent space to celebrate the innovative, hard-working mindset that Utah is all about.” Sharing similar goals and mindsets is a key factor in developing a sports partnership, which is why LVT was a slam–dunk sponsorship fit for the Utah Jazz.
Netting Engagement Among Younger Audiences
NBA teams are also utilizing jersey patch sponsorships to cater to younger audiences. By appealing to younger age ranges, typically 18–32, these teams are building longevity for their brand. The Charlotte Hornets’ new jersey patch sponsorship with MrBeast's snack brand, Feastables, exemplifies this tactic. The sponsorship signifies the first creator-led company to partner with an NBA franchise. With over 230M subscribers on Youtube– the most by an individual creator– MrBeast has made a substantial impact in the content creator space. Considering 77% of internet users 15–35 years old watch YouTube, there’s a high probability this demographic either consumes or is familiar with MrBeast’s content. With the increase in influencers on YouTube and other social media apps like TikTok and Instagram, the Hornets could be the first franchise of many to wade into influencer marketing. Sponsorships could become less about showcasing faceless brands and instead move to elevating the platforms of online creators. In this new era, we can expect to see more NBA teams follow suit by placing a special focus on how younger audiences identify with their sponsors. Capturing the next generation not only ensures that the NBA maintains its millions of viewers each season, but also increases the revenue within the Jersey Patch Program.
Innovative Tech in NBA Jerseys
As technology becomes more prominent in our lives, we are bound to see innovation within jersey sponsorships on and off the court. We have already seen this from the Indiana Pacers, whose jersey patch sponsor, Spokenote, debuted their QR Code feature this month. This allows Spokenote to deliver content from within a live game, showcasing their “digital sticky note” product. For the Phoenix Suns, their jersey patch sponsorship deal with PayPal will elevate the fan experience by offering innovative payment solutions at the arena as well as online. This new agreement at the beginning of 2023 includes a Jersey Giveback program, where a portion of proceeds from jersey sales will be donated to non-profit organizations in the Phoenix area. This not only benefits the team and its sponsor but also the local communities of these teams, showcasing technological innovation and sports sponsorship centered around fan engagement.
While NBA jersey sponsors were initially met with skepticism, they now give significant boost to team finances and the NBA at large. Across professional sports, partnerships are increasingly embraced by companies aiming to leave their mark on one of the world's highest revenue-generating industries. In just seven years of jersey sponsorships, there has been tremendous growth. With more teams switching to tech, financial sponsors, and even entertainment entities like MSG’s Sphere, there is promising improvement in not only delivering live content to fans but also in the overall fan experience at NBA games.