After an awful losing season (with 72 defeats and just 10 wins), the Philadelphia 76ers are celebrating two firsts: they won the first pick in this year’s NBA Draft Lottery and they have become the first team in the four traditional major US sports league’s to sign a shirt sponsorship deal.
The team’s on-jersey logo partnership with ticket company StubHub will tip-off in the 2017-18 season in what the NBA has described as ‘three-year pilot program’ for kit sponsorship.
The three season deal has been reported to be worth $5m a year and includes an option to extend the contract with StubHub if the NBA continue to allow kit brand logo sponsorships in the future.
The logo itself will be just 2½-by-2½-inch.
The 76ers announced the deal with a press conference event and a campaign fronted by team mascot Big Betsy (created in honour of the iconic figure from the American revolution who’s sewing expertise see her make the original version of the nation’s Stars & Stripes flag 250 years ago at her Betsy Ross House upholstery shop.
The logo launch event took place on the shop’s site along the 200 block of Arch Street and saw the team’s Betsy mascot symbolically sew the new logo onto 76ers jerseys.
This was amplified through video
and image and GIF assets across its digital and social platforms – such as Twitter.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@Sixers) May 16, 2016
‘We are about being first, being different, being innovative and getting to market at quickly as we can,’ announced 76ers CEO Scott O’Neil.
‘We’re thrilled that the NBA has decided to be an innovator among the major sports leagues in this country, we’re happy that we will be the beneficiaries, and we know that being first here will drive value for our partner.’
Unlike sports just about everywhere else on the planet, while the players’ shirts and those sold directly at the 76ers stadium retail points will carry the sponsorship, but jerseys that are sold to fans across the US will not have the new corporate sponsor logos on them.
‘We have a very strong opinion that little Scottie, [a hypothetical consumer] who is 9 years old, will want to wear what the players are wearing on the court,’ O’Neil said.
eBay owned StubHub is a ticket resale site and its 76ers partnership sees it act as the official primary and resale partner of the team.
‘This is strategic beachhead property for us,’ explains StubHub CEO Scott Cutler.
‘We, as a company, have been very transaction-oriented. We want to be more a part of the emotional experience fans have with their teams, and we think a deal like this gets us closer.’
The three year experiment sees NBA franchises given the green light to sell to any company expect for gambling or alcohol brands and it also excludes any deals with or references to politics.
The NBA has also includes a set of protected status companies to ensure existing league sponsor competitors can’t buy space on team kits: this includes national sponsors, apparel partner Nike, on-court partners Tissot (official timekeeper) and Spalding (official ball), plus media partners ESPN, ABC and Turner.
Interestingly, this exemption did not include league partner and StubHub rival Ticketmaster.
The deal sees NBA teams keep half of the money brought in from jersey sponsorship (with 25% going to the individual team that does the deal and the other 25% going into a revenue-sharing pool for all teams), while the other 50% is split with the players and will contribute to a rising salary cap.
To some NBA fans this might seem like the end of the world and the final straw in the commercial corruption of the sport they love.
But to fans, brands and rights owners across the sporting world this seems not just inevitable, but completely perplexing that it has taken the world’s leading free market capitalism country so very very long to do what the rest of the world has been doing for decades.
The sums involved p;lae in comparison to shirt sponsor deals around the world.
Manchester United’s 2014 six-year kit logo partnership with US car brand Chevrolet, for example, is worth a whopping £360m, or $70m per season (see case study).
Making the 76ers deal look minuscule by comparison.
The NBA green lit team shirt logo deals after it debuted sponsorship patches on jerseys at this year’s NBA All-Star Game in February.
‘Jersey sponsorships provide deeper engagement with partners looking to build a unique association with our teams and the additional investment will help grow the game in exciting new ways,’ said NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
‘We’re always thinking about innovative ways the NBA can remain competitive in a global marketplace, and we are excited to see the results of this three-year trial.’
Kia was the sponsor for this year’s All-Star Game, and also has the jersey sponsorship rights for the 2017 All-Star Game (see case study).
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