LONDON — In the NBA's efforts to grow its popularity in Europe, it may have picked up a way of also boosting revenues back home.
Commissioner Adam Silver said Wednesday it is “inevitable” that the league will one day take after European sports and have sponsor names on team jerseys.
That's standard practice for international sports teams, for which selling advertising space on their shirts is a main source of income.
With the NBA back in London this week for its annual regular-season game, Silver said that's something the league could copy — even if some fans would find it jarring.
“Exactly when it's going to come, I'm not sure, but I do think it's inevitable in our sport,” Silver said ahead of Thursday's game between the New York Knicks and Milwaukee Bucks at London's O2 Arena.
“Mainly because I travel so much and I see the model work so successfully here. I think that as we look to generate other forms of revenue and also as we listen to the marketplace, the companies that are involved with the NBA want to get closer to the game, want to get closer to our players.”
It could be a while before it happens, though, as it's still unclear how the financial details of such a system would work. For instance, the league would want to spread the revenue fairly equally, even though some teams could probably charge more than others.
“It's less a function of purists who oppose it and say the shirt should be clean,” he said. “It's more a function of figuring out the right economic model.”
While the NBA is still only playing one game a year in London — unlike the NFL which has expanded to three — Silver said the league's ultimate “vision” remains the same: to have a division of four full-fledged franchises in Europe one day. Such plans were first voiced by his predecessor, David Stern, and Silver said any expansion is still years down the road.
The NFL has long discussed the option of having a London-based franchise, but Silver said an NBA expansion into Europe would require several teams because of the traveling logistics. That way, visiting teams could play a number of games on one road trip overseas.
“We would have to in essence put both feet down in Europe if we were going to expand, and that would mean probably having four franchises in Europe,” he said.
“But we're not there yet. As much as growth as we've seen, we have a long way to go before we can sustain four franchises in Europe. … On the other hand, I believe it's our manifest destiny to expand.”