The NBA is shaking up its sports landscape this season with jerseys that will for the first time prominently feature the Nike swoosh (reflecting the launch of the company’s eight-year, $1 billion deal with the league) and an ad patch.
More than half of NBA teams have signed jersey-patch deals, led by the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors (a three-year pact with Rakuten valued at $60 million), Los Angeles Lakers (three-year deal with Wish for upward of $32 million), LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers (three years with Goodyear for $30 million) and the Boston Celtics (a three-year deal with GE for $24 million).
The single 2.5-inch by 2.5-inch ad patch will seem much larger and very oppressive to a number of NBA fans.
To people in Nascar, sponsor logos on cars, helmets and driver suits have long been part of, and vital to, the sport.
“It’s not just a logo you put on your car. When you sign with a sponsor, that is the type of quality relationship you want,” said Kevin Harvick, who is one of 16 drivers in the midst of the 10-race Monster Energy Nascar Cup Series playoffs seeking the 2017 championship (NBCSN).
Harvick said his team gets about $18-20 million in sponsorships, which include Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches, Busch Beer, Hunt Brothers Pizza, Mobil 1, Ford, Goodyear, Outback Steakhouse, Textron and New Era.
As opposed to being seen as ad clutter on cars and suits, “They are our life blood, they keep us going,” said Harvick.
The importance of sponsorships in Nascar is felt at the very top. This past December, Monster Energy signed a two-year deal as title sponsor for the lead Cup Series (replacing Sprint), valued at $20 million annually.
The alliance has provided Monster Energy with numerous marketing opportunities — it has been omni-present at race tracks and at retail — and opened up new channels of fan activation for Nascar.
“The acceptance of the Monster Energy brand among Nascar fans has been tremendous,” said Jill Gregory, SVP and CMO for Nascar. “We are already seeing results that we didn’t see until much farther along in our relationship with Sprint. They have made an impact.”
Although TV ratings and at-track attendance have been sluggish, while such companies as Target and Scotts Miracle-Gro have either eliminated or reduced their Nascar alliances, the relationship among fans, drivers and driver marketing partners has not waned.
Nascar fans are seen as being among the most brand loyal in sports, according to studies from such sources as the American Marketing Association and Turnkey Sports & Entertainment.
“It can be a complicated landscape,” said Gregory. “But the great news is that we’ve got more Fortune 500 brands in our sport than any other. We’ve got competitors working together, not just on the race track but in the marketplace.”
“Both sides [drivers and brands] understand that this is about supporting a race team, but it also is about reaching fans and consumers where they live, work and shop,” said Harvick. “I am well aware that Nascar fans are extremely loyal to the brands that [drivers] are associated with. That has a big impact on the type of deals we sign.”
As for the impact in the NBA of its 2.5 x 2.5 ad patches, “They have to deal with it on their own terms,” said Gregory. “And how it plays out in that space will be different from how it plays out in ours.”
The comparison of the NBA to Nascar is perfect. The watered down league that nobody watches anymore is losing attendance and interest at record pace. What better way to lose more fans than by adding irrelevant brand logos to jerseys? Advertising in sports has gotten out of hand except for the NFL. Why don't fans stand up and say enough is enough? If I had season tickets I'd wear a jersey to the game with a black patch over the brand logo.