It’s been discussed for years within the four major U.S. sports and now, it’s a reality — the sacred ground has been broken. The National Basketball Association has become the first league to agree to place brand logos on player jerseys. Beginning in the 2017-18 season, NBA teams will be able to display a 2.5-inch square patch on jerseys. The Philadelphia 76ers were quick to capitalize on this opportunity and partner with StubHub, and to date, nearly half the NBA teams, including the defending champion Golden State Warriors have signed jersey sponsors.
According to NBA commissioner Adam Silver, this initiative could produce around $100 million in revenue to be divided among teams and players. While these tiny ads come at a substantial cost, the opportunity to reach millions is undeniable. Major League Soccer has successfully executed this approach for a decade, generating more than $6 million annually. Aside from increased visibility, are brands missing a greater opportunity?
A brand’s logo is a beacon for its business, designed to generate eye-catching awareness. However, how many purchases are realistically made because of a logo? Few, if any. This is when the power of earned media and content distribution can fortify a sponsorship investment. Through earned media, brands have an opportunity to educate audiences through insights, highlight their connection to the fan, and, most importantly, “earn” third-party credibility through media and influencers. According to Nielsen, 85% of consumers regularly or occasionally seek trusted expert content like credible, third-party articles and reviews when considering a purchase. Beyond reaching consumers, brands can connect with other constituencies including potential investors and partners. Developing a successful earned media strategy requires three key components: Audience analysis, compelling storytelling and accentuate through social media.
Developing an earned media strategy requires a deep understanding of the audience — most notably, where they consume information and what they seek. Analyzing audiences on social media can provide insights on their interests and the type of content they share. Additionally, brands can look no further than their competition’s social platforms and other earned media coverage to learn how they engage with like-minded fans. Once a brand has identified audience passion points, it must determine what messages will resonate, which can be done through testing.
Brand loyalty and customer purchases are built by compelling storytelling. Many consumers purchase Under Armour products because the brand is known for quality products and commitment to innovation, not because of the logo. Storytelling helps consumers select brands aligned to their passion points. Sixty-seven percent of consumers believe an endorsement from an unbiased expert makes them more likely to consider purchasing. When storytelling works, consumers feel connected with a brand. As a result, they talk, tweet, retweet and purchase.
Social media has brought fans closer to the game and their heroes. Fans can now engage directly with athletes, media, influencers, teams and brands from the palm of their hand. However, with so many social platforms, finding the perfect way to engage fans can be challenging. Beyond determining where an audience resides in the social environment, it is critical to understand when they are most active. Is it before a game or during the morning commute? From here, it’s up to the brand to deliver a rich, authentic experience — especially in real-time — that will stimulate conversation and spark interaction.
Jersey ads were always inevitable, and this is only the beginning. Marketers need to consider the opportunity for storytelling and take advantage of sponsorships by integrating earned media provisions within their deals. Otherwise, fans will be staring at, and potentially ignoring, another logo.