Pro Sports Uniforms Become New Ad Platform, But Fabric Softeners Not Encouraged

Major U.S. sports franchises have somehow missed the advertising revenue that comes to almost all other worldwide sports -- including international soccer, Formula 1 car racing and pro cycling-- from marketing on uniforms.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver expects advertisers to get signage on uniforms within five years. That would make pro basketball the first of the big four U.S. sports to do so.

Should more ROI-centric platforms like digital media be worried? Not completely. Most of the initial uniform marketing will be just logos. Call-to-action on uniforms could just be short messages like “Just Do It” or “Ram Tough.”

Silver toldAd Age that almost all NBA corporate sponsors have expressed interest in putting logos on uniforms. But that might only be the start.

Since the ‘70s, some marketers have viewed T-shirts as walking billboards. Logos like Nike’s famed swoosh have already made appearances in a number of sports.



Silver claims the advertising space on jerseys could be worth $100 million, which would be small potatoes considering the billions the league pulls in. The NBA has already tested the waters here through its WNBA league, which has already given up some prime jersey real estate to sponsors.

While the NBA, NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball have resisted uniform advertising, perhaps those leagues will start to listen -- especially the NHL,  where franchises are having a tough time making money.

NASCAR -- the fifth biggest U.S. sport by some measures -- has perhaps been the model of branded advertising messages for decades, using them in, on and around its cars themselves.

But things weren’t so easy when the sport started making bigger TV rights deals in the 1990s. Marketers who sponsored cars didn’t believe they also should buy TV time. Having TV cameras spending lots of video time showing their logos seemed enough.

In those years, Fox Sports struggled to convert those marketers into TV advertisers.

Will that happen to the NBA? Hardly. TV marketers know there needs to be more than just “brand awareness” of a logo on a piece of fabric to make sales. They’ll need to continue to “activate” their league sponsorship with other activities to make the cash registers ring – or rather, in the digital age, to make checkout machines beep and websites hum.

2 comments about "Pro Sports Uniforms Become New Ad Platform, But Fabric Softeners Not Encouraged".
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  1. Jody Newberg from CBS, March 21, 2014 at 3:35 p.m.

    The MN Lynx have already partnered with the Mayo Clinic to do this.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, March 21, 2014 at 3:46 p.m.

    Are you saying that these leagues are not non-profits? Then people who walk around with a commercial name on their t-shirt or other merchandise they paid for are advertising media vehicles that are not getting paid doing the same things that other media are getting paid to do.

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