The NBA is reaching new heights with a multi-year deal with Emirates Airlines, indicating an unexpected change in the league’s marketing environment. This agreement not only introduces referee jersey patches for the first time but also redesigns the In-Season Tournament. The Emirates NBA Cup expands the airline’s involvement across many league events and platforms.
Emirates Airlines Signs Referee Jersey Sponsorship Deal
Taking Center Court with Sponsors
More than six years after players wore sponsored patches, referees will now wear Emirates branding on their left chests beginning with the 18th February All-Star Game. This decision reflects referees’ rising popularity on television particularly during replay reviews. This makes them attractive advertising real estate. G League and WNBA officials will join the trend in the following seasons.
Beyond Jerseys: A Multifaceted Partnership
The engagement of Emirates goes well beyond referee uniforms. The airline becomes the NBA’s official worldwide airline partner, gaining significant branding exposure at major events such as NBA Crossover and the NBA Finals Legacy Project. In addition, virtual in-arena signs backboard branding during nationally televised games and in-flight NBA content development enhance Emirates’ presence within the league’s ecosystem.
— Sportico (@Sportico) February 8, 2024
Why This Matters
This partnership represents several significant trends:
- Expanding Advertising Space: The NBA is constantly looking for new revenue streams including previously untapped places such as referee shirts.
- Evolving Sports Landscape: Similar to soccer, the NBA is incorporating more advertising into various areas of the game reflecting broader industry trends.
- Strategic income Growth: This agreement demonstrates the NBA’s proactive strategy to maximize income through strategic partnerships and innovative branding initiatives.
Beyond the Jersey
The connection with Emirates goes beyond referee patches. The airlines will also:
- Rename the In-Season Tournament to the “Emirates NBA Cup”.
- Provide in-flight NBA content: On Emirates flights passengers, can enjoy documentaries, player biographies and interviews.
- Participate in a variety of marketing activities including virtual in-arena advertising, backboard branding during nationally televised games and involvement in marquee events such as NBA Crossover and the NBA Finals Legacy Project.
The addition of sponsored patches on referee jerseys opens up new advertising prospective beyond uniforms. As the NBA deals with the changing media landscape, it is likely that partnerships and branding initiatives across channels will remain a priority.
The deal with Emirates Airlines is a huge step forward for the NBA’s advertising strategy. By carefully exploiting referee shirts and other touchpoints the league can generate significant revenue. This collaboration represents a new chapter in the NBA’s history as Emirates becomes its official airline partner.