Rooting For Logos And Laundry: The Tie Between Sponsorships And Fandom

05.30.17 5 months ago 4 Comments

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I have no great loyalty to Chang, a not particularly well-reviewed lager produced by Bangkok-based Thai Beverages. It is a thoroughly mediocre beer, and difficult to find in the United States, and I’ll be quite content if I never taste it again. You might not guess this by the dozen or so shirts in my closet with a giant Chang logo on the chest.

If, as Jerry Seinfeld once said, our sports fandom often boils down to little more than “rooting for laundry,” there may be nothing dumber than rooting for laundry with a corporate logo on the front. In that, international soccer fans have had a long head start on fans of the traditional major American sports: For decades, teams in Europe and elsewhere have sold uniform space to advertisers ranging from local plumbers to multinational conglomerates. Now, those Americans who have yet to embrace the world’s preferred version of football — I’m told that some holdouts remain — are about to find out how that feels.

Last April, the NBA announced it had approved jersey sponsorships starting with the 2017-18 season. So far, six teams have inked deals, most recently the Cleveland Cavaliers with Akron-based Goodyear. The outcry from traditionalists so far seems fairly minimal, probably because traditionalists hold less sway in the NBA (a league that has forced some of its players to wear T-shirt jerseys in recent years) than they do in other sports, and because the small corporate logos won’t do much to diminish or compete with the actual team or city name on the chest.

Not yet, anyway.

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