02:35:51 pm on
Tuesday 18 Jun 2024

NBA Experiment
David Simmonds

Did you see that the NBA is undertaking a three-year “experiment” to allow teams to sell a sponsorship spot on the team jersey? It’s just a tiny oval patch on the left side, above the heart, legible if you're a courtside fan with a telescope or a home fan with an 84-inch, ultra-high definition television. Yet, it’s for sale. The league estimates the three-year programme will raise $100 million a year. That's almost chump change, if you consider it's the estimated aggregate of the revenue split among thirty NBA teams.

A one billion dollar, eight year experiment.

The announcement comes a year or so after the NBA garnered a $1 billion, eight-year deal, with Nike, to be official supplier of Nike-logoed uniforms to the whole of the NBA. Again, it doesn’t seem much money, if you divide the one billion dollars by eight years; then divide it, again, by thirty teams.

The poster child for shirt sponsorships is the English soccer team Manchester United. Chevrolet pays the team $80 million a year, for seven years, to plaster a much larger logo all over the front of its shirt. This “all in” kind of sponsorship bet can have its downside, if one considers the middling recent performance, of the team. It's almost as if the car company and the team are pleading with fans to "find new roads," elsewhere.

That’s enough mathematical dribbling. To paraphrase C D Howe, the great Canadian, what's a billion bucks? The point that interests me is not the size of the dollars, but the appropriateness of the sponsorship matchups.

First, you'd look for a team name with some resonance. Would you rush out to sponsor the Utah Jazz, formerly from New Orleans, because Utah isn’t the first place that springs to mind to associate with improvisational music? The Los Angeles Lakers, formerly from Minneapolis, doesn’t seem to be near a lake. The Memphis Grizzlies, formerly from Vancouver, which is hardly prime grizzly bear country. Ah, yes, but the franchises have rich and storied histories. Blah blah blah.

There are a few natural fits.

The Detroit Pistons could readily find an automotive industry sponsor. The Milwaukee Bucks and the Minnesota Timberwolves could find “huntin’ and fishin’” industry sponsors. The Orlando Magic is practically a walking advertisement for Walt Disney. The Boston Celtics could make a compelling case for Irish Spring soap. The Washington Wizards could probably strike a deal with the publisher of the Harry Potter books. The Charlotte Hornets could hook up with a maker of wasp repellent and so on.

Now, with game seven in the bag, it's safe to introduce the Toronto Raptors into the conversation. Rapper and official team ambassador, Drake, could presumably fork over some pop machine change of his own to rent the sponsorship patch, as could one of the companies for which he is a pitchman, such as that pop machine staple, Sprite. Even the Drake Hotel, with its already famous Wellington presence and its less well-known Toronto branch association with Drake, himself, would not be an entirely bizarre suggestion. If none of those opportunities panned out, a company that supplied aftermarket parts for the Dromaeosaur dinosaur, when the team name, would fit the bill. I reject the idea that the manufacturer of an expectorant, to minimize the risk of choking, would be an appropriate sponsor.

What corporate patron would not give its eyeteeth to be associated with current NBA champions, the Golden State Warriors, led by league MVP Steph Curry? Better, yet, with the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by former MVP, LeBron James, as he tries to bring a title to his championship deprived home city. Perhaps on a lark, a company with a little extra cash and an against-the-grain attitude would sponsor one of the ‘loveable loser’ franchises, such as the New York Knicks or the Philadelphia 76ers.

That still leaves a whole swath of unaffiliated teams to align themselves with natural sponsors like the makers of odour killing insoles, deodorants, floor polishes, tall men’s clothes, muscle pain creams and extra strong laundry detergents, not to mention tattoo parlours and tattoo removal clinics,

If the experiment works, the possibilities are limitless.

If the trial sponsorship, of patches on jerseys, works out, who knows what positional opportunity will go on sale next? Will it be the full Manchester United-style shirtfront? Maybe headbands and sweat cuffs. Socks. Rear ends. As George Bernard Shaw once remarked, the principle established, haggling about the price is all there is to do.

Actually, I wonder why, with all this money thrown around so casually, ordinary consumers still pay apparel companies for the right to sport their logos. I would accept a paltry $20,000 a year, from Sears, to wear clothes sporting the company's logo. Between you and me, that price is negotiable. Perhaps, if I’m mercenary about it, I’ll threaten to wear Tommy Hilfiger unless the company wants to pay me not to wear it. There's an idea. I could lend my name to a new line of Hilfiger ultra-fashionable "not worn by" clothes. That would be an experiment worth writing about.


Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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