If you’re a sports fan, a jersey is usually an essential piece of your wardrobe. It is your mark of belonging, which visibly marks you as part of a larger group. Even if the fan sitting next to you is a stranger, you can tell if they are friend or foe by looking at their shirt.
Take the Milwaukee Bucks as an example. Although there have been many variations over the years, ranging from cream to an all blue edition, the message is the same. You recognize the jersey when you see it and, in turn, you know who is on your side.
Despite this familiarity and prominence, jerseys are known to evolve over the years and sport new and unfamiliar details. The “M” patch on the Bucks chest is a perfect example. What does this letter have to do with Milwaukee basketball?
As you’d expect, it’s more money-related than basketball-related.
Milwaukee Bucks jersey has ‘M’ patch thanks to partnership with Motorola
When you see a crest on a sports jersey, it’s sometimes in honor of a franchise legend. The “M” on the Milwaukee Bucks jersey, however, is there for business rather than sentimental purposes.
The capital letter is the Motorola logo; the telecommunications company has been the official jersey patch partner of the Bucks since the start of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. Prior to that, Milwaukee had Harley Davidson branding on its uniforms.
While it’s unclear how much Motorola is paying for this prime real estate — they’re also the franchise’s official mobile smartphone partner, have a brand on Bucks practice shirts, and have a presence at the Fiserv Forum — it’s safe to assume it’s worth a pretty penny. Milwaukee has risen to the top echelon of the Association thanks to Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the Greek Freak is giving the club international appeal.
In May 2021, Jeramey Jannene of Urban Milwaukee quoted a marketing executive who estimated sponsorship of the Bucks jersey could be worth over $10 million a year. It should be noted, however, that Milwaukee will not keep all the money. Under the league’s collective bargaining agreement, about 50% of sponsorship money goes to players as basketball-related revenue, and the rest goes into a profit-sharing pot.
Like it or not, uniform ads are now part of professional sports
While the Bucks’ Motorola patch isn’t all that blatant — it largely blends in, and if you weren’t familiar with the logo, you might think it was Milwaukee-related — not all teams have this chance. For better or for worse, advertising is simply part of the game.
As noted in an Axios article from 2022, NBA teams have had jersey ads since 2017. The NHL added helmet ads during the pandemic, and brand logos began appearing on jerseys as well. Major League Baseball will allow advertising space on batting helmets during the 2022 playoffs, and sleeve ads can be sold for the 2023 campaign. Currently, the NFL is the only outlier, limiting training jersey advertisements.
Outside of North America, advertising is even more widespread. Football teams, even those playing in financially powerful leagues, have main jersey sponsors alongside sleeve sponsors and countless other business deals. European hockey jerseys are covered in so many advertisements that the players almost look like stock cars rather than humans.
At this point, it’s hard to imagine these logos ever disappearing. Teams have seen the money they can make and, overall, fans have seemed largely uninterested. Although there were a few complaints along the way, they weren’t enough to affect the bottom line. Unless something changes financially, this genie will not go back in the bottle.
So, at least for the foreseeable future, the Milwaukee Bucks will take the field with a Motorola “M” on their jerseys. Although you might not like it, at least you know what it is and why it’s there.
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