NEW YORK -- A new look is coming for the NBA.
Beginning next year, the NBA will become the first of the four major professional sports leagues to start selling advertising space on players' jerseys.
Spectators got a sneak peek at what the sponsorships will look like when Kia Motors bought ad space on this year's all-star game jerseys.
The ads will only measure a little more than six square inches on the uniforms. But they could have a long-lasting impact on how fans see the game.
"It's advertising creep," says Mike McCarthy, a writer for "Sporting News" and "The New York Times."
"It's the creeping commercialization of every nook and cranny of our lives," McCarthy said. "But you know, we've held out for a long time."
In Europe, this has gone on for years and teams are often named for their corporate sponsors.
"This is a new revenue stream," said McCarthy. "People aren't watching commercials like they used to. ... It's all about money."
The ads are expected to generate $150 million in the first year alone, which will be split between the teams and the players. Teams will sell individual sponsorships.
"The thing about Europe is, you get less commercials over there if you have the ads on the jerseys. Does anyone think we're going to have less commercials over here from ESPN and TNT?"
The NBA says this is a three-year pilot program. But McCarthy said it's unlikely to go away.
"Once you create a new revenue stream for teams, and especially players, I don't think the league can go back to them after three years and say 'you know those millions of dollars you've been earning? We've decided against it.'"
Manchester United gets $70 million a year just from having the Chevy bowtie logo, McCarthy said.
Will other leagues follow?
"Once this dam bursts, the other leagues are gonna follow," McCarthy said, "with the possible exception of the NFL, which doesn't need the money."
"However, what I've heard from my sources in the league, the league is going to be watching this very closely to see who gets on the jerseys. They don't want 'Chico's Bailbonds' sponsoring a team."
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