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Everything Fans Need to Know About Ads on Portland Trail Blazers Uniforms

The 76ers and Kings are the first two teams in the NBA to sell ad space on their jerseys for the 2017-18 NBA season. Here’s what you need to know about the Portland Trail Blazers and a potential uniform ad partnership.

Taco Bell Skills Challenge 2014 Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Ads are coming to NBA uniforms next season. So far, the Sacramento Kings and Philadelphia 76ers have signed deals with Blue Diamond Almonds and StubHub, respectively, agreeing to afix corporate sponsorship patches to the shoulder of their uniforms. The Blazers, and 27 other teams, are still negotiating the sale of their jersey space.

With that in mind, here’s a quick primer on what is currently known about the Blazers’ uniform ad situation.

What will the ads look like?

The only detail known about the ads so far is that they are restricted to a 2.5-inch square patch on the left shoulder. Players have worn similar patches at All-Star events for several seasons:

The ads on jerseys for the 2017-2018 season will be roughly the same size as the All-Star weekend patches, but it is unclear if the corporate partners will be asked to create alternate logos that match the team’s colors. So far, the Sixers have matched their StubHub patch color scheme to their uniforms, whereas the Kings have gone with a non-matching blue for Blue Diamond Almonds:

While the Blazers black and white jerseys will pair well with most logo color-schemes, it is easy to imagine the red alternates clashing significantly with several brands (e.g. the OHSU patch on the team’s practice uniforms).

How much will the Blazers get?

So far, the 76ers and Kings have both signed 3-year, $15 million deals with their respective sponsors. Other teams, however, have asked for significantly more; ESPN’s Darren Rovell has reported that the Warriors are seeking $65 million, the Cavaliers want $50 million, and the Nets are asking for $25 million. All of those contracts would be spread over the maximum three years the NBA is allowing for a trial run of uniform ads.

But how much can the Blazers expect to get for their ad space? Interestingly, if Rovell’s reports are correct, the market seems to be driven at least partially by recent on-court success. The Nets and 76ers both play in major east coast cities, and the Nets are one of the most valuable franchises in the league according to Forbes, yet those teams are drawing relatively modest payments. Meanwhile, the NBA’s most recent champions are expecting no more than triple the 76ers/Kings price, despite the fact that Cleveland is only the No. 12 most valuable franchise and not in an ideal market.

The current trend could work in the Blazers’ favor as the team (hopefully) continues its on-court upswing, especially if they get off to a hot start this season. It feels safe to speculate that fans can expect the Blazers to net a better deal than the 76ers or Kings - possibly in the $8 million per year range that the Nets are currently asking for.

Either way, it may be some time before fans get a final answer. Rovell noted that many teams are playing negotiation hardball at the moment as they wait for the market on uniform ads to be more firmly established.

Who will the Blazers sign a deal with?

With no rumors emerging about any pending negotiations, it is almost impossible to pinpoint which corporation is most likely to sign a deal with Blazers team president Chris McGowan.

What is known, is that, per league rules, the Blazers will not be allowed to sign a deal with any company that trades in the following:

  1. Alcohol, tobacco, or gambling
  2. Media content
  3. Sports equipment (the league already has a deal with Spalding and Nike)
  4. Watches (the league has a deal with Tissot)

Additionally, Rovell notes teams will have to work to keep their local television partners and star players happy (seriously, go read his article on uniform ads, it’s worth the time). That means that corporate sponsors that conflict with Damian Lillard’s personal sponsorships may be problematic, and that the Blazers will have to be careful not to undermine their partnership with CSN by selling ads to a company that would otherwise buy commercial airtime during game broadcasts.

The Blazers may also opt to sell their jersey ad space as part of a larger package. The Kings’ deal with Blue Diamond included concessions and on-court logo placement. The Kings also touted Blue Diamond’s commitment to healthy eating and locally-sourced food. Given McGowan’s recent emphasis on local food for concessions, it’s not hard to imagine the Blazers taking a similar path.

Unofficially, the Blazers may also want to avoid annoying the community. With ballot measure 97 engendering criticism of out-of-state conglomerates, the team could place an emphasis on finding a local sponsor.

With all that said, the simplest route would be to expand a current partnership to include jersey ads under the assumption that those companies already satisfy all of the above requirements. Wells Fargo and McDonald’s already have deals with the team and have the cash to pay for additional premium ad space. If the Blazers do want to stay local, Alaska Airlines and OHSU have both shown that they are interested in uniform ads. Of course, there are any number of currently un-contracted companies that could also decide the team is right to get into the NBA (e.g. Jeld-Wen, Microsoft, Boeing, PGE, etc.).

Will the ads appear on replica uniforms purchased by fans?

The league does not appear to have made an official decision about whether or not replica jerseys sold to fans will include ads. Teams seem to have some flexibility on this decision; the 76ers have opted to include ads on the jerseys sold at their team stores, but not on those shipped to national suppliers. From an ESPN article:

Jerseys sold to fans nationwide will not have the corporate sponsor logo on them, but O'Neil said the Sixers will sell jerseys with a StubHub logo at their team locations.

"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.

Will the uniform ads affect the salary cap?

Proceeds from jersey ads will be classified as Basketball Related Income (BRI) by the NBA and thus will cause a slight boost to the league’s salary cap. With the Blazers perilously close to the luxury tax threshold, larger ad contracts could help the team avoid huge tax payments in future years. With that said, the league brought in roughly $7 billion last season, so even if teams average $10 million in additional revenue, the extra $300 million will have only a minor effect on the cap.

Readers, who do you think the Blazers will choose as a uniform-patch sponsor? Let us know in the comments!

Eric Griffith | | @DeeringTornado