By Barry Janoff
December 3, 2015: The NBA has unveiled its jerseys for the All-Star Game this February and, as anticipated, Kia Motors has a starring role.
Kia, one of the most active supporters of the NBA, gets a milestone spot with its logo on the front of the game jersey.
Kia's logo will appear along with the NBA and uniform apparel provider adidas logo's on in-game and retail All-Star Game goods.
The logo placement is part of a two-game deal signed by Irvine, Calif.-based Kia Motors America with league media and sales partner Turner Sports, which will air the All-Star Game Feb. 14 in Air Canada Centre, home for the Toronto Raptors, on TNT.
There also will be a Kia logo on the All-Star Game jersey in 2017 when the game is played in Time Warner Cable Arena, home for the NBA's Charlotte Hornets.
Following the lead taken by Nascar and Major League Soccer (as well as international soccer teams), the NBA has been pushing the envelope, for better or worse, in putting brand logos on jerseys.
Currently, none of the four major pro sports in the U.S. — NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL — have regular-season game jerseys or uniforms with logos other than the official apparel partners.
If all the logicitcs fall into place, a brand logo on a regular-season NBA jersey could be worth upward of $100 million to the league, according to industry analysts.
"Yes, we will see it," commissioner Adam Silver said earlier this year about sponsor logos (other than the NBA and official apparel company adidas) on jerseys. "I am a student of other leagues, and we watch how the industry has developed around the world."
The NBA has talked about and experimented with jersey-front sponsors for several years, including its Development League and in the WNBA, where several teams have sported logos from the likes of Boost Mobile, Microsoft's Bing, Finish Line, H-E-B and the Mayo Clinic
Corporate logistics remains a significant hurdle, as logos that get national presence can not interfere with deals that teams have with local sponsors. As Silver pointed out, it's a situation of "figuring out the right economic model."
"Certainly, kit sponsorship is something that is very prevalent outside of the United States," said Silver. "Ultimately, it will make sense for the NBA, as well."
Stance, which is in its first season as the NBA's official sock supplier but outfitted players during the All-Star Game last season in New York, also has its logo on on-court footwear.
This will be the first NBA All-Star Game played outside of the U.S. But the design honors the NBA's early days in Toronto, where the first NBA game was played on Nov. 1, 1946, between the Toronto Huskies and New York Knickerbockers.
Anheuser-Busch is the most active sponsor of the NBA, with 81% of NBA-related properties with a sponsor in the malt beverage category reporting a partnership with the company and its brands, according to sponsorship research firm IEG, Chicago.
They are followed by State Farm (74% of NBA properties), Gatorade (68%), adidas (68%), Coca-Cola (55%), MillerCoors (52%), Kia Motors (52%), Spalding (52%), Pepsi (48%) and Geico (42%).
Kia, which became the NBA's official auto partner in 2008, has deals with 14 teams as well as LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Among other activations, the automaker is title sponsor for the Kia NBA Most Valuable Player and the Kia NBA Rookie of the Year.
"This is the first NBA All-Star Game to be played outside the United States, and it is a very exciting time for basketball in Canada," Chris Grancio, adidas global basketball general manager., said in a statement. "To honor this global celebration and pay tribute to Toronto — the site of the NBA's first game — we've incorporated design elements that are inspired by the city's basketball history, sports culture and unique fashion scene to make an All-Star collection that players and fans will love."
The Air Canada Centre will also host the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge on Friday, Feb. 12 and State Farm All-Star Saturday Night on Saturday, Feb. 13. Other events at NBA All-Star 2016 include the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, the NBA Development League All-Star Game presented by Kumho Tire and the NBA Development League Dream Factory.
NBA All-Star jerseys ($70-$110) and NBA All-Star apparel, including adult and youth T-shirts ($20-$30), adult track jackets ($110-$200) and headwear ($20-$26), will be available on NBAStore.com in January. Select NBA All-Star merchandise will also be available internationally on NBAStore.eu and NBAStore.cn.