Evolution of the NBA Jersey Patch
Updated: Oct 27
By: Jason Berg
The NBA has always looked for more ways increase its marketing revenues. Before the 2017-18 season, the NBA became the first major U.S. sports league to add sponsorship logos to their jerseys. Teams were responsible for selling their own partnerships in exchange for companies to have their logo on the front of their team's jerseys. This was originally a three-year pilot program.
The NBA’s decision to allow jersey patch sponsorships paid off immediately. According to Statista, in the 2016-17 season, the last season without these jersey patches, the NBA earned $861 million in sponsorship revenue. The following year, after the debut of these jersey patches in the 2017-18 season, the NBA earned $1.12 billion from sponsorship revenue. This decision resulted in a 30% increase in sponsorship revenue in just one year of these patches.
After instant success, the original three-year deal was extended indefinitely. This prompted the NBA to not stop there, as another deal was announced for the 2021-22 season. The ‘Shooting Shirt Patch Program’ allows teams to include companies’ patches on shooting shirts and warm-up jackets.
The teams themselves are also earning large amounts of profits. According to ESPN, some teams are earning $5-10 million in additional revenue from these partnerships. Some of the most notable partnerships come from the league’s biggest markets, as the Los Angeles Lakers partnership with Bibigo and Golden State Warriors partnership with Rakuten earn them $20 million per year. Since the New York Knicks partnership with Squarespace came to an end, they are looking for a new deal worth $30 million.
Although the big markets are always going to earn the largest deals, the most fascinating partnership came this offseason between the Charlotte Hornets and Feastables. Feastables is a snack brand founded by YouTuber Jimmy Donaldson, also known as MrBeast. This is the first partnership between a creator-led brand and an NBA team. The Hornets are entering a new territory with endless opportunities.
This partnership will likely be beneficial for both parties. Collabing with a social media superstar can bring all types of benefits to this franchise. MrBeast’s 196 million YouTube subscribers, 87.9 million TikTok followers, and 42.1 million Instagram followers can tap into a completely different target market for the Hornets. This is a prime example about how marketing is evolving and how companies can use the power of social media to reach new audiences and generate revenue.
The traditional sports fan may wince at the logo on their favorite team’s jersey, but these partnerships are here to stay. Since the success of the NBA jersey patches, other leagues have also added it to their sports. The NHL added jersey patches in 2022 and the MLB joined the party in 2023. The NFL is the last remaining major U.S. sports league to be without these patches. If these partnerships continue to be successful, the NFL might have no choice but to follow along.