Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Brand Managers: Sponsored NBA shirts are a Challenge and a Reward

New branded shirts for the NBA are the first or many new way to reach a target market...but you have to know how best to use them. As an Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) student and sports fan, there are two issues in discussion: how will the fans react to this new trend, and how will brands benefit from the new 2.5x2.5 inch ad space?

According to Tony Manfred in his article titled "The NBA's Massive New TV Deal Clears The Way For Putting Ads On Jerseysfor Business Insider, the sponsored shirts are tied to the new $24 billion deal with ESPN. Both the Network and the league expect to see profits by displaying a highly viewable space on the players. With some issues that still remain un-resolved, such as if the sponsors would be national or local brands, the NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, referred to the ads on NBA jerseys as “inevitable”. Sponsored shirts is something that will happen in the near future, a groundbreaking innovation to the league that will have a major impact on teams, sponsors and fans.

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Kim Skildum-Reid offers a critique on her blog, arguing that “(teams) You’re hurting yourselves, limiting your value, and limiting the appeal of your sponsorship to companies who don’t get it – a rapidly diminishing pool.”  Furthermore, she elaborates on how shallow is it for a brand to only take a space on a shirt, hoping to see returns from it, as opposed to actually engage with highly passionate communities such as sports fans.

After reviewing these two articles and drawing on my sports marketing expertise developed in the Northwestern Medill IMC program, I have three action items you need to consider when developing your marketing strategies as a brand manager of the actors here involved:

  • Set a goal that transcends the jersey - As a brand manager from the sponsor side, you must think about what you want to achieve by buying a space in a jersey. That Engagement Strategy might not be well rewarded if not followed by a thorough IMC plan.

  • Match brands and team positionings - As a team brand manager, think what´s the price to have a sponsor on your shirt. You might want to be picky and choose one which stands for the same values as your team and deliver consistency to your devoted fans.

  • Take care of your league - The marketing division of the NBA must take care of their league, establish homogenous criteria for sponsors and teams to not affect the league´s image as a whole.

In sum, the league is opening a door for sponsors to have a bigger presence in the NBA. For the first time in its history, the league will have branded shirts, and this new scenario compels all actors involved to think clearly and strategically of how to deal with it to have benefits for all.

Manuel Altomonte| @manualtoIMC
About the author: 

Candidate, Integrated Marketing Communications at Medill (Northwestern University, Chicago IL). I have work experience in corporate communications and marketing, development and management of communication platforms and digital marketing. I enjoy team-work to find creative solutions to challenges.

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