Golden State Warriors Reach Jersey Patch Deal With Rakuten

The Golden State Warriors are the biggest draw in the NBA right now, and they now have the advertising deal to assert that claim further.

The Warriors have agreed to the largest advertising patch deal to date in the NBA with the Japanese tech company Rakuten. The agreement is worth $20 million per season for the next three years.

There were multiple companies in competition for the coveted spot on the Warriors’ jersey. Remarkably, Warriors chief marketing officer Chip Bowers said that the Rakuten deal wasn’t even the biggest offer they received.

He explained that the Warriors felt it was best to align themselves with a global brand to grow their own global exposure.

Rakuten is one of the most recognizable corporations in Japan but has yet to obtain the same type of prominence on U.S soil. They hope their partnership with the Warriors will increase their visibility in North America.

Rakuten made San Francisco the site of its North American headquarters back in 2015. The Warriors are currently constructing their new arena in San Francisco, the Chase Center, which will open in the 2019-2020 season.

This partnership goes deeper than just a patch on a jersey, though. The Warriors have agreed to rename their practice facility the Rakuten Performance Center.  Rakuten will also become the official e-commerce, video-on-demand, and affiliate marketing partner for the Warriors.

The Warriors will also utilize services that Rakuten owns. Ebates will become their official shopping rewards partner. Viber will be their official instant messaging and calling app. Kobo will serve as their official e-reader partner.

According to Eric Smallwood of Apex Marketing Group, Rakuten’s logo should generate between $32-37 million this season in equivalent advertising from TV, social media, video games, and jersey sales.

What are the Long-Term Ramifications of These Types of Agreements?

Purists may decry the blatant commercialism of an advertising patch on a jersey (which interestingly enough the Warriors are dubbing the more dignified term “badge”), but it’s not a huge leap from the ads that currently adorn the sidelines during games. The only difference will be that instead of players running past ads, they’ll be wearing ads on their left shoulder that measure 2.5 inches by 2.5 inches.

Slippery-slope arguments have been used for decades now about increased commercialism hurting the game. If ads make their way onto jerseys, what’s stopping a team from eventually selling their franchise name to a corporation?  The Golden State Warriors could one day sell their name off to a company willing to pay the big bucks to associate with high-level basketball.

The PA announcer would pump the crowd up as the “Golden State Exxon Mobil” took the court. Or as the “Golden State Mercedes Benz” came out of the locker room.

It sounds absurd, but it would have been equally insane for a fan in the 1950s to contemplate nearly every arena namesake being sold off to a company that had no direct connection to the franchise.

While there was once hysteria about stadiums and arena namesakes being sold off to the highest corporate bidder, the game marched on.

Ascetics are never as important as the actual on-court performance of players. As long as the league continues to produce an entertaining brand of basketball, everything will be okay.  It doesn’t matter if the best players in the world are playing in an arena named after a city or a toothpaste company. The on-court product capturing the imagination of fans is the most important thing.

Stephen Curry nailing 30-foot off-balanced jumpers won’t be any less amazing because he’s wearing a corporate logo on his jersey.

If teams can improve viewer and fan experience through revenue generated by selling jersey ads, more power to them.

Assuming that the players remain remarkably talented and fans can continue to indulge in the action in innovative and accessible ways, there are no worries.

These jersey patches can only help the game grow. If fans are worried about the influence of commercialism, that ship sailed a long time ago.

It’s ultimately up to the players to keep the league esteemed. Basketball will continue to thrive through contributions of world-class athletes.


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