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Boston Celtics and General Electric announce jersey sponsorship

The Boston Celtics and Boston’s newest preeminent corporation General Electric announced the franchise’s first jersey sponsorship Wednesday, as first reported by ESPN’s Darren Rovell

The Celtics’ preview of the new GE patch on their jerseys for next season.

The Boston Celtics and corporate giant General Electric announced the third jersey sponsorship deal in the NBA Wednesday at GE’s Boston headquarters. ESPN’s Darren Rovell reported Tuesday night that the Celtics and GE would announce a wide-ranging sponsorship deal that will include making GE the official data and analytics partner of the Celtics.

The deal is worth over $7 million annually, reports Bloomberg News.

“They’ve represented the gold standard in business for decades now and we did not take lightly to put a logo other than the Celtics logo,” Celtics owner Steve Pagliuca said. “They were the only company we ended up talking to about it.”

“We’ve got Auerbach, we’ve got Russell, we’ve got Bird, and now we’ve got Thomas Edison,” Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck told the Globe.

The Celtics released a pair of mockups of the patch, which will match the jersey lettering color to blend in seamlessly.

While the idea of the patch has been polarizing in the public eye, coach Brad Stevens isn’t concerned about the idea that the vaunted Celtics jersey is being tarnished.

“I mean, we wore gray with sleeves yesterday,” Stevens said before the Celtics hosted the Houston Rockets Wednesday.

The blue GE logo will appear green on the white home jerseys and white on the away green jerseys to maintain a consistent color scheme. GE took some convincing to drop the blue from the patch according to a source, but they came around strongly at the announcement Wednesday.

"The opportunity to do this with a storied franchise, with the winningest franchise in NBA history, is really humbling," GE Chief Marketing Officer Linda Boff said Wednesday morning. "I think our brand looks really beautiful in green."

While the patches will not appear until next year, fans attending the game Wednesday night got an early preview of the logo on the basket stanchion and the back of the player bench chairs. It was the first sponsorship placement for GE with the Celtics, who will also sponsor in-game jumbotron segments and other placements throughout the arena.

This is not the first connection between the two organizations. In December, GE named the Celtics’ hospital partner New England Baptist Hospital a GE Center of Excellence for hip and knee replacement surgery, creating a program for GE health care recipients to receive more efficient treatment.

The data and analytics partnership will include optimizing player performance and injury prevention, as first reported by the Boston Globe. GE stated at the announcement that it will work with the Celtics in developing the Red Auerbach Center in Brighton Landing, providing significant technological assets and support for the new practice facility scheduled to open in the Spring of 2018.

The resources deployed at the new facility will range from x-ray and CAT scan machines to adaptive lighting systems to optimize court lighting when affected by the natural light coming in through the planned atrium. While GE will not hold official branding at the facility — which is sponsored by next door neighbors New Balance — their products will hold a significant footprint.

The practice court will utilize GE’s Daintree intelligent lighting system, according to a team source. This system optimizes energy efficiency, monitoring for LED bulb performance and increasing luminance on surrounding bulbs when a light fixture is performing poorly. While the Garden’s lights take approximately 20 minutes to warm up, the practice facility lighting will work at full capacity almost instantly.

The facility will be LEED certification ready, although the team does not plan to apply for certification at this time. While the building will not use alternative energy sources such as solar, the franchise is working with its sponsor National Grid to develop an efficient energy system for the facility.

GE will serve in a direct consulting role for the Celtics’ medical tracking and analysis, adding more manpower and technological resources to its current internal program.

“We will take 100-percent of the credit if the Celtics win the championship,” GE Chief Financial Officer Jeff Bornstein said. “It will all be because of data analytics.”

The manufacturing and tech giant is considered a global leader in medical research, giving the Celtics a leg up in the NBA’s analytics and tech arms race. GE is developing a pioneering nano-device in conjunction with the Nano-Bio Manufacturing Consortium and U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, which could be the future of in-game health monitoring.

The new CBA created a wearables and technology committee, although the league has not made an internal announcements on a timetable for forming the committee, according to a source.

While GE’s resources and services will be utilized for basketball analysis, that phase of the partnership is still in the early planning stages.

“GE will be woven into the fabric of the Boston Celtics both literally and figuratively,” Celtics president Rich Gotham said in the announcement. “Their leadership in innovation, analytics, and technology will help us to be as competitive as we can be in everything from optimizing our facilities and equipment to player performance. Simply put, GE will make us a better and smarter basketball team and organization.”

Celtics President Rich Gotham (left) with owners Steve Pagliuca (middle) and Wyc Grousbeck (right) join GE leadership to display the new GE logo.

GE announced a year ago that it will move its headquarters to downtown Boston in the old Necco factory located in the booming Fort Point section of the Seaport District. Back in June, CelticsBlog speculated that GE would make a fitting partner for the Celtics as a jersey sponsor, considering the company’s desire to embed itself with the Boston community and the Celtics’ penchant for multi-faceted corporate partnerships.

It is a prudent and vital move for GE, who negotiated a significant incentive package from the state and city to move to Boston from Fairfield, Conn., while not directly offering a significant number of new jobs to the area. GE will be located in Boston’s Innovation District, furthering the city’s goal to create a Silicon East between Boston and Cambridge.

For the Celtics, they kick off their first year in Nike jerseys with the logo of the 11th largest corporation in America. The league’s contract with Adidas expires this summer, along with the infamous grey Parquet Pride sleeved jerseys. Both organizations are known for their enduring and continuing legacy of success, as well as their industry trail blazers Neutron Jack Welch and Red Auerbach.

The Celtics join the Philadelphia 76ers and Sacramento Kings as teams that will debut sponsorship patches on their jerseys next season. The Sixers will feature StubHub, while the Kings will feature the Blue Diamond nut company. Jerseys will not be sold outside of official team stores, although the teams reserve the right to determine whether to sell the jerseys with sponsorship patches at all during the NBA’s three-year pilot program. Jersey sponsorship revenue will be included in the league’s revenue sharing system.

During this program, teams can only use one 2.5 inch by 2.5 inch space by the upper chest for the logo. It is a measured approach when compared to the WNBA, who has embraced the global football and basketball standard of a full sponsorship display across the chest and a small patch logo for the club in the corner where the NBA’s sponsor patches will go. The WNBA’s system places a team specific sponsor above the jersey number and a league specific sponsor below.

Rovell reports that while the Kings’ and Sixers’ deals are set at $5 million annually, the Celtics’ contract terms are not known. Considering that this agreement will cover other services beyond the jersey placement, the price is likely higher. He reports that the Golden State Warriors are seeking between $15-20 million annually, which would likely set the top of the market for jersey sponsorship.

For comparison, Premier League giants Manchester United, who sells the most jerseys in the world out of any sport, initiated an $80 million annual deal with Chevrolet in 2014. Spanish giants FC Barcelona had traditionally refused to display jersey sponsors, but in 2006 Barcelona agreed to a five-year deal with Unicef for free front chest display before eventually signing a $36.6 million per year deal with Qatar Airlines.

Barcelona announced last November a new $59 million per year deal with Chinese e-commerce conglomerate Rakuten, showing the global interest in jersey sponsorship is exploding. Barcelona moved its Unicef logo to the back of the jersey when it initiated its Qatar Airlines partnership, creating precedent for potentially further advertisement placements in the future. The NBA logo currently occupies the upper back area of the jersey, but could be moved to the front right chest above a potential Nike swish opposite the sponsorship logo in the future.

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