One of the most iconic jerseys in professional sports officially got its expected makeover Tuesday, as the Knicks unveiled their new sponsor in the form of a Squarespace patch near the upper-left shoulder of their home and away uniforms. The Knicks previously announced their intention to don a sponsorship — to the chagrin of some purists — but did not reveal their corporate partner until the Tuesday news conference.
Squarespace, a company started by Anthony Casalena in a University of Maryland dorm room in 2003, is a website hosting service and blogging platform that has had enormous success in the wake of the digital boom. David O’Connor, president and CEO of the Madison Square Garden Company, declined to specify the financial terms of the agreement, or for how long Squarespace will occupy the small space on the Knicks’ jerseys. In addition to the patch, the company will have ad space throughout Madison Square Garden, and a large digital advertisement was already in place on the arena’s front marquee by late morning.
The Knicks are the 17th NBA franchise to make a deal for a sponsored patch, shifting the course for the league that has long eschewed such forms of advertisement (sponsored competition apparel is common in the WNBA, MLS, NASCAR and throughout Europe). O’Connor — who was on hand with Casalena and Knicks president Steve Mills, who did not speak to the media after the event – said that there was never a real consideration to keeping the jersey as it was.
“Not really,” O’Connor said. “I think we look at it as, this is a trend that’s happening more extensively globally throughout a lot of different professional sports. This is a relatively small step for the NBA, relative to what’s happening elsewhere in professional sports and we think it’s a good one.”
Speaking of those who would prefer the iconic jersey untouched, he added: “I think the NBA in general weighed those considerations very carefully and I think the owners weighed those considerations very carefully and I think they came up with a good solution.”
Though the patch will say Squarespace, Casalena said that the company would not keep all the ad space to itself. As part of its “Make It Fund,” they plan to let some of their “customers share in the outdoor space that we have to let them promote their brands,” as Squarespace is used by a number of small businesses and entrepreneurs.
The Knicks trotted out Frank Ntilikina, Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Lance Thomas to model the jerseys and Ntilkina, the Frenchman who’s had plenty of experience with sponsored apparel in Europe, made it clear that this was something special.
“It’s a really big deal, actually,” Ntilikina said. “New York is a special team and we haven’t had a patch on the jersey since a long time — since, like ever — so it’s a really big deal to have the first patch on the jersey…It is (common in Europe). It’s different here. But like I said, it’s a really big deal for New York, for our organization, for our franchise, to unveil this logo.”
Notes: Ntilikina (knee) said he felt much better and hopes he can return for the Knicks’ final preseason game Friday.