As discussed at length in my earlier blog Splitting the Pie that is BRI, any increase in guaranteed BRI (basketball related income) for the NBA’s owners would necessarily coincide with a reduction for the players, and vice versa. While determining this split is likely to be the most challenging part of collective bargaining negotiations, all parties will concede that growth in BRI is good for everyone so long as both parties have a right to shares of future BRI growth (an assumption that has held true in modern-day NBA CBAs).
There may come to a time in collective bargaining negotiations when the parties are nearing a compromise but neither feels it should be required to give up anything more. At this point particularly, it may be necessary to explore ways of expanding BRI. For instance, in advance of the 2010-11 season, the NBA loosened its regulations to allow alcohol producers to engage in courtside sponsorships, thus bringing entirely new revenue into the fold. This past April, rum-maker Bacardi became a corporate patron of the NBA.
By loosening NBA regulations and by getting a bit creative, the NBA has a chance to expand BRI opportunities and save the 2011-12 season from lockout. One example of a regulation change that could boost BRI would be to afford sponsorship properties on NBA uniforms.
As many sports fans are well aware, football/soccer teams throughout Europe have sponsors’ names and logos unmistakably emblazoned on their uniforms. Boxers have been known to stencil temporary tattoos of corporate names and logos on their bare skin in exchange for sponsors’ dollars. The NASCAR vehicles, as well as its drivers’ uniforms, are heavily sponsored (the car’s number being just about the only area not to have sponsor names/logos).
The NBA game uniform has, to date, remained free of sponsor names and logos, apart from a small logo designating the manufacturer of the garments. At a minimum, the NBA and its teams could be permitted to sell discrete sponsorships on the shoulder strap opposite the NBA logo or on the seat of the shorts (where certain teams like the Hornets presently sport their own logo). Recently, Mark Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks have been seen sporting an HDNet patch in the upper right hand corner of their practice jerseys. While noticeable enough to benefit advertisers, ads in this location can be unobtrusive and tactful.
Along the same lines, the NBA could allow and encourage its teams to sell the center court jump circle and other areas on the floor to advertisers. While this would once again commercialize elements of the game previously held sacrosanct, it would bring in additional sponsor dollars for the benefit of owners and players alike.
Yet another creative example of recruiting new sponsorship dollars might be to create large, removable stickers or magnets (much like Fathead® stickers that can be placed on walls in a home) for team sponsors that could be placed on open walls throughout the arena’s concourses and even in the arena’s restrooms.
To the extent that a team shares its arena with other tenants who have conflicting sponsorship agreements, maintenance/janitorial staff could be assigned to display and remove the stickers each game along with their other duties. By adding these additional sponsorship properties, the NBA’s teams could increase BRI (so long as income from these sources was fully included in the NBA’s BRI calculations).
Another idea that the NBA’s teams have yet to implement to any degree of success is providing an interactive in-game gaming experience (for prizes, not gambling!) for NBA fans. This might include setting up a fan rewards system where fans could gain points, which could be used for team gear, concessions, and/or other prizes.
Fans could score points while in the stadium by purchasing concessions, participating in team trivia, voting on in-game entertainment (e.g. what songs to play in the arena), answering questions relating to team sponsors, and successfully predicting statistical results of the game (e.g. scoring output of particular players, predicting the game’s winner and margin of victory, etcetera). Fans could play along via a smart phone app and redeem points for prizes. While smartphones now often take fans out of the action, an app like the one mentioned above could use smartphones to increase fan interaction. The app could run advertisements to further augment team income, and the program could eventually be expanded to fans playing from home.
These are just a few ideas of how the NBA and the NBPA might augment the BRI pie. While such changes may be seen by some as the NBA “selling out,” they are certainly preferable to a protracted NBA lockout.