Sponsorships: What’s the Big Deal?

Sponsorships: What's the Big Deal?

Sterling Sellers, Journalist

Sponsorship has long been a major part of professional sports. It seems as though every team has an official car dealership, and an official lawn care service. We see stadiums renamed in order to accommodate a sponsor willing to throw millions of dollars at these teams just for the sake of exposure. But one thing that has remained sacred in most American sports organizations is the jersey or shirt that players wear during games. And now even that barrier is finally being broken.
    The NBA is now allowing teams to sell the upper left hand corner of their jerseys to the highest bidder. One of the most notable cases of this is the addition of the ‘Goodyear’ logo to the Cleveland Cavaliers jersey. This arrangement is reported to last 3 years and will cost the tire producers anywhere from 5-10 million dollars per season. This money will be used to further the team’s ambitions in any way they see fit. So why is this just now starting in the U.S and what are the drawbacks, if there are any, of this transaction.
      To first understand the complexities of this situation, we have to refer to similar occurrences on a different but equally significant platform. Jersey sponsorships in soccer are a huge source of revenue for teams that want to develop into a larger brand. We have seen these sponsorships for decades now. Teams sell huge portions of their shirts so noticeable that the inexperienced viewer might mix up the team name with whatever car manufacturer or airline graces the majority of the shirt. This loss of identity is what creates most of the controversy surrounding shirt sponsors, and perhaps why it’s taken so long for the U.S to embrace the change.
     But these sponsors allow for teams to build themselves into global brands, and also reach a wider audience. In some instances, a small team is bought by a huge corporation and is rebranded to fit the identity of the buying franchise. One such company is Red Bull. Red Bull has set up teams in New York, Germany, and Austria most notably. But this rise to power creates friction within the community, and causes some fans to lose a connection with the identity of the team.
     It remains to be seen if the introduction of jersey sponsors leads to this sort of corporate takeover in America. The league organizations will definitely try to keep a hold on the situation for fear of corporate domination. But in the end money usually wins, and maybe it would be better if the U.S decided to adapt with the times.