Commissioner David Stern is overseas, helping sell the NBA brand with its annual round of exhibition games in Europe and Asia.
On Sunday, he was in Milan, Italy, watching the Boston Celtics – one of the few NBA teams that are a brand unto themselves – take apart Italian club EA7 Emporio Armani Milano.
EA7 Emporio Armani is an apparel and accessory company and the primary sponsor of Milano of Lega A in Italy. The company logo is plastered across the front of the team’s jersey, supplanting the spot for conventional nickname, like “Celtics.”
And as you can see from this photo, EA7 Emporio Armani may be Milano’s biggest jersey sponsor, but it certainly isn’t the only one. If you’re looking for the actual team name, check the right side above the chest, where it says “Olimpia Milano 1936” in a somewhat smallish font.
The NBA isn’t going to “billboard basketball” just yet. But it was announced this summer that there is broad support from NBA owners for their teams to begin wearing 2 1/2-inch square sponsor patches of corporate sponsors such as McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Kia in the 2013-14 season.
FYI, a 2 1/2-inch square is smaller than the Cinesport video box to the right of this post.
Here’s the thing. Stern doesn’t want sponsor patches on jerseys.
That’s the same David Stern whose stewardship as commissioner has seen the financial growth of the NBA represented by the addition of seven teams; the relocation of six teams; the advent of All-Star Weekend; overseas preseason and regular season games; the inclusion of NBA players in international competitions; a league-owned TV network and website in multiple languages; a subscription TV and radio package; the renovation and construction of arenas with increased club seating and luxury suites; an additional round of playoffs; two lockouts that shortened seasons to ensure long-term profitability for owners; and a virtually exclusive secondary ticket market.
Yeah, that David Stern. That guy doesn’t want sponsor patches on his teams’ jerseys.
“As a personal matter, I am not in favor of it, but I’m not standing in the way of it,” Stern told CSNNE.com. “If my board wants to do it, we’ll do it.”
While the belief is that Stern’s stance is grounded in tradition, it may be personal as well. For nearly 30 years, he has worked hard to mine revenue streams – some of them extremely lucrative – that did not compromise the purity of appearance of the game’s highest level when it is on display.
“Of all the leagues in the world, the NBA is the only one that has its own logo on it,” Stern told CSNNE.com. “No information of the manufacturer and no sponsor, and that is something that I have worked hard to preserve for many decades. But I understand that the team may have to come to consider it. So we’re going to let the Board of Governors decide what to do.”
Stern’s personal preference doesn’t stand a chance against NBA owners, who already have rubber-stamped the sponsorship of everything from starting lineups to end-of-season awards and are rubbing their hands together at the thought of an additional $160 million in revenue through brand exposure.
Players care if their uniforms are comfortable and fit properly. Once someone explains to them that they get about half of that $160 million, the grumbling about looking like an overseas league will barely be audible.
It’s somewhat refreshing that Stern cares about tradition. Do you? Leave a comment above.