Advertising on Jerseys: Strategic Marketing Or Useless Clutter?

Ever since I can remember, I have been a huge basketball fan. And I like the game just the way it is!

If advertising in NASCAR on driver uniforms and cars are any indication, then the soon-to-be-implemented NBA jersey ads will eventually become a trademark of the sport. By as early as 2017, we may start to see brands advertising on NBA jerseys in the form of mini 2.5” x 2.5” patches. More or less accepting this impending change (to advertising and to my favorite game), it raises several interesting questions.

Where Should the Buck Stop?

Marketers have long used both mass marketing techniques as well as experiential strategies. However, using individualized marketing to communicate with customers to reach them where and how they want to be reached is the newer, more effective, purer form of marketing. If we accept branded logos on jerseys, cars, cups and other game or event-based collateral, what’s next?

Think about it—will companies start to pay players to tattoo a logo on their arm? Will we eventually see marketing messages and logos on the floor, court or field? Some of these things already exist, purely aimed for brand recognition and awareness (almost every NBA “area” is sponsored by a company e.g., Quicken Loans Arena) but will every announcement soon be sponsored, too? Will food stands and even the food itself come in branded wrapping? What other sorts of new marketing will we see in sports in the future?

Are Branded Patches On Jerseys Too Much?

How much is too many? Is this even still considered good marketing? Is it driven by a strategy, targeted to an audience, driven by data? Or do these sorts of sponsorships and advertising serve to only further convolute a hallowed sport?

I’ve never been a proponent of mass marketing for the sake of mass marketing, but I get it—big brands see an opportunity to get their name out there in the spotlight, and why not? Who can resist? But it’s not real-time marketing, certainly not data-driven and it’s not strategic marketing, either.

And if the NBA adopts such a policy, it won’t be long before other sports and multimedia companies realize the revenue potential of placing ads within the game itself—no longer will it be enough to run banners on the scoreboard or place signs in the outfield.

It will be interesting to see how sponsorships on jerseys continue to evolve in the coming years. But in today’s era of using individualized insights to manufacture relevant, targeted customer conversations, they’ll have to consider whether customers—or fans, as the case may be—even want to be exposed to marketing in this way. Fans and customers don’t buy more just because they see you. They buy more when they interact with you in the right place, at the right time.

Targeted Messaging Beats Random Exposure

I’ll reiterate it again because it’s so true: the most effective way to propel your brand to stand out amongst the clutter in the market is by using a holistic marketing strategy—not a broad, random, mass marketing technique aimed solely at getting eyes on your message where customers likely won’t be receptive to such messaging.

Though the times have changed, marketing has always been, and will always be, about one thing: building full-scale marketing campaigns that consistently reward you with quality customer relationships. Now the ball’s in your court; are you ready to play?

This article originally appeared on Forbes.

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