By Phil Hecken
The big, and pretty much entirely expected news yesterday was the announcement by the NBA that the league will begin selling jersey
sponsorships advertisements in 2017-18, becoming the first major North American sports league to put partners’ logos on players’ uniforms. And so, it begins.
Here’s the basics of the deal: It will be a “three-year trial” and takes effect when the league’s contract with Nike begins for the 2017-18 season. The patches will appear on the front left of the jersey, opposite Nike’s logo, and measure about 2 1/2 by 2 1/2 inches.
Commissioner Adam Silver called the ads “inevitable” as an “additional revenue generator,” (what, they don’t make enough already?) and WNBA teams currently have logos. NBA clubs have been wearing them on practice jerseys for a while now. So, by Silver’s logic, this is just the next step.
According to Silver:
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. 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.
Each team will have to sell its own ad space to sponsors. Teams will reportedly net half of the sponsorship money from the jersey ads. The rest will go to the league’s revenue-sharing pool.
So there you have it. It’s funny, I was planning on titling this piece “And so it begins” (a fairly famous J.R.R. Tolkien quote) the other day, when I knew the ads would be coming (it was pretty much the worst kept secret in the world) — but it was used yesterday, twice by Paul — the first time as I tweeted this news, and the second time, to begin his ESPN article on the announcement. Great minds (or at least his…).
Paul’s a much better scribe than I (and on this issue, we are in 100% agreement), so I’d recommend you folks read that for an excellent critique of the NBA’s decision. I’ll highlight a few choice quotes below:
“The NBA, by adding corporate brands to its uniforms, runs the risk of ruining one of the most audacious examples of brand loyalty the world has ever seen. … (I)t’s the most potent form of brand loyalty on the consumer landscape. It’s one of the really special things about sports. And that’s the incredibly powerful mechanism the NBA is risking by allowing ads on its uniforms. In an era when virtually every facet of the sports experience is now advertised or sponsored, the uniform has become the last ad-free haven, a place where fan and team can bond without the external noise of competing brands.”
There are still many questions of course — since each team will sell its “own” ad space, how will they do this and how will the advertisers be chosen? Will teams seek ‘local’ businesses (like, will Coca Cola sponsor the Hawks?) or will they simply open the process to the highest bidder? What kinds of ads will be acceptable (like, can Porn Hub or the Pot Growers Association of Denver buy ads?)? Is this really going to be a “three year trial” or is that just to give us a faint glimmer of hope that the ads aren’t permanent — initially the ads are going to be small box-sized (2 1/2 by 2 1/2 inches), but who is to say these won’t morph into giant WNBA-sized ads or soccer-style ads?
And if that’s the road down which we’re headed, will ads be limited to just ONE ad, or are we looking at something like this or even like this? Don’t laugh — other leagues plaster ads over almost every conceivable inch of space — are we really that far from something like this? Don’t laugh.
Was it really only four years ago that Paul opined on ESPN that we shouldn’t “expect uni ads anytime soon”?
It’s not like this was unexpected — but still, it feels so…depressing. It’s like the beginning of the end. It was the NBA yesterday. But now that this dyke has been breached, you can probably expect Gary Bettman of the NHL to have a similar announcement in the not too distant future — Bettman didn’t want the NHL to be the first league to solicit uni ads, but the ad horse has now left the barn.
And so, it has begun.
The floor is yours.
Everyone Wears 42 Day Roundup
MLB doesn’t get a lot of things right (and hasn’t gotten much right in decades), but the one thing they do do right is Jackie Robinson Day — the day all players ditch names on backs and wear 42. I really look forward to this day every year. It’s a great treat, and a wonderful honor for arguably the most important player in MLB history (and certainly over the past 60+ years). The decision several years ago to allow all players to wear the league-wide retired “42” #OB was a great one. And since JRR day fell on a Friday, it means all teams got to bust out the 42’s yesterday.
April 15th, of course, marks the anniversary of the date (4/15/47) when Jackie Robinson played his first major league game, becoming the first black player since the 1800’s to play in the bigs. When I’m the Commissioner, I’ll make some rules but my feeling (and I think Paul shares this as well) is this: Everyone wears 42 is about the DAY — April 15th — so on that day (and that day only) all clubs should wear 42. If you’re not scheduled? Too bad. There’s always next year. Game gets rained out? Oh well, you don’t get to wear 42 on some other day. Keep it special, and that means keeping wearing 42 to April 15th.
We’ve been through many JRR days before, so showing you photos of all teams wearing it is pointless. Nevertheless, there were some highlights from yesterday’s action:
It’s not just MLB that wears 42 — but it should be — except for UCLA, for whom Jackie played (and excelled at four sports: baseball, track, basketball and football). So, UCLA broke out some special unis yesterday:
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) April 15, 2016
It’s fine if everyone wears “42” — but it’s NOT fine if both teams wear red softball tops AND everyone has the same #OB. That’s gotta be a scorers’ nightmare:
— Chad Jorgenson (@cjorgenson3) April 16, 2016
Some teams look better in 42 than others:
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) April 15, 2016
Of course, JRR day is
an excuse a day to “honor” JRR by wearing special cleats, and these are just a sampling:
— Justin Upton (@JUST_JUP) April 15, 2016
— andrew mccutchen (@TheCUTCH22) April 15, 2016
— CC Sabathia (@CC_Sabathia) April 15, 2016
— jheytwotwo (@JasonHeyward) April 15, 2016
— Curtis Granderson (@cgrand3) April 15, 2016
Of course, the bases were decked out with JRR plaques:
— Mike Acosta (@AstrosTalk) April 15, 2016
And the mounds/infield (well, some of them):
— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) April 16, 2016
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) April 15, 2016
— omsports42 (@omsports42) April 16, 2016
And in the dugout:
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) April 15, 2016
And on the scoreboards:
— Warriors selfie (@warriorsselfie) April 16, 2016
— valerie wardlaw (@DrValWardlaw) April 16, 2016
The Padres wore their brown alts for JRR Day:
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) April 15, 2016
This is just so cool:
— MLB Jersey Numbers (@NumbersMLB) April 15, 2016
And so is this:
— Oakland Athletics (@Athletics) April 15, 2016
I will admit, this can be a bit confusing though:
— David Drummond (@leaveit4later) April 16, 2016
Cornell vs. Princeton 11-21-64
Got the following e-mail from David Teigland and it’s totally excellent.
My dad came across a program from this game while going through some boxes in his basement. He figures it was saved by my mom when she visited her then-boyfriend, who was a freshman in college when she was still a senior in high school. My mom died several years ago, so I can’t confirm that story, but the program itself is in good shape. I took cell phone photos of some representative pages (uni-related and otherwise, including a blurb about the upcoming basketball season mentioning Bill Bradley). I’d be happy to mail it to you if you have any interest in it. I have plenty of stuff of my mom’s already, and I have no emotional connection or attachment to this piece of history. When I saw it, the first thing I thought of was you and your site. Too bad more of the pages aren’t in color.
Thanks David. Here’s a look at the photos described above (click to enlarge):
UW’s Friday Flashback
In case you missed it, Paul’s Friday Flashback on ESPN looked at Nets’ uniform history, which has included some memorable designs — though some of them were memorable for all the wrong reasons. The FF comes in response to one of the great uni-related stories of recent years — which came earlier this month from ESPN.com’s Zach Lowe, who revealed the previously untold tale of how the New Jersey Nets almost renamed themselves the New Jersey Swamp Dragons in the 1990s. That in and of itself is a tremendous story — so be sure to check that link out as well.
Great read, so be sure to check it out if you didn’t catch it on Friday!
for the Ticker
Got a note earlier this week from Leo Strawn, Jr., who always has some great tidbits and stories. This one is more a bunch of ticker items, but…
It’s also a bit…Too Long For The Ticker…
Got a few that you can squeeze into the ticker if you wish:
Calvin Hill and Ted Kwalick signed with the WFL Hawaiians in 1974, contracted to play in 1975 after their NFL contracts ended. (Kwalick ended up playing his short stint in the WFL with the Philadelphia Bell.) This photo shows a rare shot the Hawaiians brown prototype helmet in front of Hill and Kwalick after signing with the Hawaiians in ’74 (they wore yellow helmets on field).
Not sure how accurate this is, but when the Oilers were moving to Tennessee, the name Copperheads was considered, and this photo reportedly shows a Copperheads prototype jersey.
NHL New Jersey Devils were originally the KC Scouts. After two seasons they moved to Denver and played as the Colorado Rockies. Apparently the Rockies recycled Kansas City’s sweaters with the Rockies logo for some preseason games in 1976, as seen on the club’s 1977-78 schedule.
That’s all for now. Cheers!
— Leo Strawn Jr
Thanks, Leo! As always, great stuff!
OK. Now, onto the ticker…
Uni Watch News Ticker
Baseball News: Pretty cool piece here on what baseball players eat (from Mary Bakija). … The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders have some really awful alternate unis. … Check out these awesome 1870s throwback unis (h/t Andrew Musgrove). … Is it time for the Yankees to make a uniform change? … Vin Scully Patiently Explains Why 13 Isn’t An Unlucky Number (thanks Paul). … The Bowling Green Hot Rods are going to wear these camo numbers today (via Eric Leach). … Here’s a look at the THE OSU’s camo tops, if you can see them. … Speaking of camo — check out this digital camo battle between LaPine at Harrisburg, Oregon high school baseball (from Alex Allen). Oh, that’s Harrisburg batting. … Mike Piazza’s post-9/11 home run jersey will have a permanent home in New York. A trio of Mets fans, including Anthony Scaramucci founder and managing partner of SkyBridge Capital, Tony Lauto a retired Wall Street executive and an anonymous third party signed an agreement today to purchase the jersey in a private sale from Goldin Auctions for a record price of $365,000. More info here (from David Firestone). … The Mets’ Yoenis Cespedes wears a patent leather belt with his uni (from Tom). … The Orioles wore their BP caps yesterday. … Last evening the IE 66ers were wearing all black uniforms. Submitter Kristopher Sharpe adds “They were playing San Jose, and they’re wearing white over grey for some reason.”
NFL/Football News: “This is kinda cute,” says Marcus Kamp. The Seattle Seahawks have created a real-life version of their 2016 schedule by making the schedule in cupcake form. … Check out these, uh, UA woodgrain cleats for the Jags’ CB Davon House (h/t Dustin Kline). … The Cleveland Gladiators are holding a Cleveland Cavs night tonight, and wearing the Cavs wine & gold color scheme (from bodz). … If this graphic is any indication, the Seattle Seahawks will be going mono neon green when they play in the Color Rash tournament this fall (h/t Dave S.).
College Football News: The new turf at Mountaineers Field has been installed and it’s looking good (from Coleman Mullins). … Yesterday was “ring day” for the Carolina Tar Heels, as they received their hardware for winning the ACC’s Coastal Division (h/t James Gilbert). … Penn State’s helmets will feature a special sticker during their blue/white game. … Speaking of helmets, here’s an article on the “25 Coolest” college football helmets. … The Purdue Boilermakers unveiled new uniforms yesterday. … “Looking for something else and found this (ASU) helmet,” writes Christian Berumen. He’s “not sure if ASU has worn it before.”
Soccer News: Chicago Empire FC is an elite youth soccer organization, based in the Chicagoland suburbs and established in 2016. Steve Johnson notes, they have a “pretty cool logo with the Chicago skyline including the Ferris wheel which you don’t normally see when people do a skyline of Chicago.” … From Footy Headlines comes this 2016-17 Kits Overview — All Leaked and Official 16-17 Shirts. … The New Liverpool Jersey For Next Season Has Been Revealed, And It’s A Beauty (from Mikey Traynor via Paul). … “For their upcoming DFB Pokal semi-final against Borussia Dortmund, Hertha Berlin will wear a special kit for the fixture, which is pretty much just an off-the-peg Nike kit with a bear from Berlin’s coat of arms printed on it,” says Callum Johnson, who adds, “And Hertha and Nike have the cheek of charging â‚¬75 for it! Meanwhile, Hanover 96 celebrated its 120th anniversary (Thursday) night by wearing a special heritage kit produced by its kit supplier, the small German manufacturer JAKO. The shirt offered for sale to fans was limited to 1896 units, being retailed at â‚¬50. A more bespoke creation and cheaper than Hertha’s special kit, too. The kit worn by players at last night’s Bundesliga game, however, was blemished by their regular shirt sponsor, and featured a faux lace-up collar.” … FC Cincy is introducing an orange 3rd jersey for its game against Pittsburgh on May 14th.
Grab Bag: The Citadel is considering a request from an admitted student who is Muslim to wear a hijab ”” a notable exception to its uniform requirements. … Oooohhh: check out these vintage photographs of the Dakotah Curling Club as well as an unidentified Scottish curling team from 1903 (nice finds by Pete Woychick). Those would look great colorized, eh Pete? … Darrell Wallace Jr., otherwise known as Bubba Wallace, unveiled a new Tennessee Vols-Inspired NASCAR helmet designed by BEAM Designs for the upcoming race at Bristol Motor Speedway. … Here’s an index of every sports team whose logo Leonardo DiCaprio has worn on his hat (from Andrew Cosentino).
And that’s it for today. Everyone have a great Saturday — and thanks to everyone who tweeted (especially Megan Brown who contributed many of the JRR items) or emailed for the ticker, as well as David and Leo.
I’ll catch you guys tomorrow, but until then…
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHecken.
“Sorry, no one in the world is going to care if the Mets sold Ty Wigginton’s jersey from his oh-for-four outing against the Kansas City Royals on June 13, 2004. Probably not even Wigginton himself.”