On Wednesday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver predicted that sponsors’ logos would land on pro basketball jerseys in the next five years.
“It just creates that much more of an opportunity for our marketing partners to get that much closer to our fans and to our players,” Silver said, per ESPN.com. “It gives us an opportunity just to have deeper integration when it comes to those forms of sponsorship.”
That explanation doesn’t do much for fans who already feel bombarded by advertisements while trying to watch pro sports, but there’s one way in which such a business tactic could benefit viewers, and that’s if it results in fewer commercial breaks.
This is the entertainment industry, and the least entertaining aspect of any NBA or NFL game is always the stoppages in play. Your average NFL game has about 60 minutes’ worth of momentum-stalling commercials, according to the New York Times.
Silver suggested in 2011 that ads on jerseys could make the NBA about $100 million in added revenues. Considering that the NFL gets significantly higher television ratings, it’s probably safe to assume that sewn-on ads would be much more valuable in football.
The NFL could essentially reallocate that revenue from commercial sales to jersey ads, which wouldn’t necessarily help or hurt profits.
The greedy approach, of course, would be to sell ads on jerseys and keep running as many commercials as before, but that comes with the risk of further alienating a fan base that loves the league only because it is obsessed with the product, rather than the business.
The NFL might be better off cutting commercials in favor jersey ads, rather than maintaining the former and adopting the latter, because that strategy has the potential to dramatically improve the viewing experience and overall product.
The NFL can’t get a lot bigger than it already is, but what if games were cut to two hours and 30 minutes, rather than three hours and 15 minutes? What if they could cut down drastically on the opportunities they currently give casual fans to get bored, change the channel and never come back?
Our attention spans are shorter than ever, so not going to break twice in a three-minute stretch following a touchdown or field goal could ultimately benefit the league more than those extra ad profits.
Does it feel a little cheap? Sure. But you’d get used to it. And it’s not as though sponsors’ ads on jerseys have ruined soccer in Europe, at least for those who didn’t feel it was ruined from the get-go.
And ultimately, the trade-off might benefit both the NFL and its loyal fans.