Culture of Hoops

NBA to Put Ads on Court in 2013-14 Season

You’ve seen them on TV. You’ve seen them in magazines. You’ve accidentally clicked them while trying to Facebook stalk someone and then your phone took forever to load the page. That’s right, folks, next season there will be advertisements on the court for the first time in the history of the NBA.

Okay, that may not sound like a big deal. And that’s because it isn’t really, at least not yet. As far as 2013-14 goes, the ads will be limited to the floorspace currently occupied by team’s Twitter handles and small two-inch decals permitted on top of the backboards.

These seemingly minor tweaks are the pet project of current NBA Deputy Commissioner, and soon-to-be full-on NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver. After his pitch for corporate logos on jerseys stalled—a plan he predicted would generate an extra $100 million a year in revenue—Silver proposed this scaled-back test run for the coming season. It’ll be evaluated over the course of the year and if it proves unpopular, the ads will be gone quicker than that Geico caveman show.

Of course, that probably won’t happen. The league is all in favor of extra money, and there’s no reason to expect any objections from the players since they’ll be getting a nice piece of the action as well. That just leaves the fans to protest, but we probably won’t care too much either way. If anything, we should be happy that there’s more money going around, because that’s what made basketball not exist for half a season, right?

Kind of. As it stands the plan seems unobtrusive enough, but I am a bit concerned about what’s going to happen when it’s inevitably renewed. SIlver clearly likes this idea of capitalizing on ad revenue, so there’s no reason not to assume that he would try to expand it down the line. This could mean ads directly on the court, ads on jerseys, or worst of all, those banner ads from the TVs in Idiocracy that dwarf the actual content.

But in all seriousness, any expansion beyond what’s planned for this coming season would cheapen the experience of watching the game. Imagine if every highlight of Lebron James prominently featured the word “Huggies.” Yikes. Moreover, as anyone who’s been watching the NBA Finals can attest, we’re exposed to more than enough advertisements already.

And aside from being visually repugnant, the numbers just don’t work out. Will an extra $100 million really make that much of a difference when the league earns $2 billion less a year than Major League Baseball? More profitable leagues such as the NFL don’t even have such a proposition on the table. If the NBA wants to make itself more competitive, advertisements will simply not be enough—they are a band-aid, not a solution. It’s time Silver started looking for answers elsewhere.

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