In a delightful “choose your own commercial subtext” move, two D-League teams have decided to sport ads on their uniforms beginning in the ’10-’11 season. The WNBA opened the door for this kind of development by doing the same last season, though it’s still rather unlikely that NBA teams will ever play along.
The NBA is by far the most commercially viable of the three leagues, and the decisions made by WNBA and D-League teams to sell jersey ad space is strictly financial. The Rio Grande Valley Vipers aren’t looking to ally themselves with Lone Star National Bank, it just makes enough business sense for the team to change the front of their unis while putting a few bucks in their pocket.
NBA teams though, through some reverent (or misguided, depending on your perspective I suppose) acknowledgment of both franchise and league tradition, seem tied to their laundry. Teams still look to sell more and more ads and take on more and more partners, but even in harsh economic times they’re not struggling to the point of “selling out” their history. The purple and gold wouldn’t look quite the same with a STAPLES logo across the front, and Celtic green doesn’t carry the same mystique with TD Banknorth emblazoned across the chest.
Regardless, it’s good enough for the D. The Erie Bayhawks and the aforementioned Rio Grande Valley Vipers will be the first in the D-League to cash in on jersey ads, and according to the associated press, both teams have agreed to multi-year deals with their respective sponsors.