The NBA is expected to be the first major North American professional sports league to showcase advertising on game uniforms, according to a panel of industry experts at the IMG World Congress of Sports presented by SportsBusiness Journal/Daily.
"We're not going to rush into this thing, even though it's widely accepted around the world," said NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum, who also referenced the practice in the WNBA, D League and NASCAR. "We've got to do it thoughtfully because we're potentially going to be one of the first leagues to do it. We're putting a lot of thought into how it looks, how it works and those mechanics."
Two NHL executives, league deputy commissioner Bill Daly and Flames president Brian Burke, also spoke Wednesday at the conference in Los Angeles about how it's only a question of how and when the NBA would start running ads on uniforms.
Larry Miller, president of Jordan Brand, has a unique perspective because he used to work the other side of the fence as president of the Portland Trail Blazers.
"I don't necessarily like it, Miller said. "If you start to get too much going on with the uniforms, it actually takes away from the authenticity of the uniform. But by the same token, I know it's a revenue play for the league and teams. If it's going to be done, it's in a way that doesn't affect or impact the authenticity of the brands."
Another consideration is whether these ads would be locally driven or be negotiated league-wide on a national scale.
"If you look at it from a local perspective, small market teams don't benefit from that, as much as the larger market teams," Miller said.
Burke isn't looking forward to the day when this comes to the NHL.
"Go look up a Swedish hockey team and look at the advertising on the uniform," Burke said. "It's sickening. I hate it. I hate it. If you need the revenue that badly, cut your labor costs. We don't sell heroin. We shouldn't sell advertising on uniforms."
Such an analogy might be considered apples-and-bowling-bowls hyperbole, but apparently not for Burke.
"They're very close in my mind," he said. "It's coming. I hate the fact it's coming. That doesn't mean traditionalists like me have to embrace it or enjoy it. I look at, especially our Original Six teams, the clean marks we have, the beautiful sweaters and I look and I think, we're going to have Ford patch or Chrysler patch on there -- you gotta be kidding me.
"There are Swedish team that have the golden arches on their socks, on the stripes on their socks -- c'mon!"
Although the NHL might not beat the NBA to market with this approach, it has already started down the same path.
"It does exist currently," Daly said. "The current manufacturers of our jersey really advertise with their on-ice presence, so it is a matter of how you do it."