Since arriving in Boston, General Electric has aimed to leave its mark on the city’s schools, its waterfront, and its high-tech companies. Now, GE wants to make its mark on the basketball court as well.
The Boston Celtics and GE have reached an agreement that will place the company’s iconic logo on players’ jerseys starting in the 2017-2018 season, according to team sources.
The deal comes as NBA teams have begun to take advantage of a new league rule that allows small sponsorship patches to appear on the left side of the jerseys.
Details about the Celtics deal were scant Tuesday. Representatives for GE and the Celtics declined to comment publicly about the arrangement, although a person briefed on the deal described it as a multimillion-dollar marketing relationship that will involve a number of elements, including work in the community.
GE also wants to deploy its data analysis software on the parquet: The arrangement is expected to make GE the Celtics data and analytics partner, with a goal of improving player performance and injury prevention, according to another person familiar with the agreement.
The organizations planned to hold a press conference to discuss their new relationship Wednesday morning at GE’s headquarters in Boston’s Fort Point section.
The deal with the Celtics will give GE — the largest public company based here — a new level of public exposure in its new home city. Chief executive Jeff Immelt told the Globe a year ago it was important that the company’s presence is felt in Boston: “We would be disappointed if the town didn’t feel the difference of having GE here.”
Much of the reason the company decided to move its corporate headquarters to Boston from its sprawling suburban campus in Fairfield, Conn., was to capitalize on the depth of young, high-tech talent in this area and to plug into the city’s culture of innovation. About 200 people work at the Boston office now, but GE eventually plans to employ 800 people in a new headquarters complex that the company will build on Necco Court, overlooking the Fort Point Channel.
GE’s most prominent sports sponsorship work in recent years has been its involvement with the International Olympic Committee. GE has been a global Olympics sponsor since 2006, and its technology was featured in venues at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. The company provided equipment from light fixtures to MRI machines to devices that provide backup power to the Games. GE has also been involved with figure skating, professional golf, and Formula One racing.
Momentum for the deal began last April when the NBA announced it would allow sponsorship logos on player uniforms for a three-year trial starting next season, coinciding with the start of a league deal with Nike. The patches will appear on the front left side of the jerseys, opposite Nike’s swoosh logo. Each team is responsible for selling its own sponsorships.
That decision made the NBA the first of the country’s four major professional sports leagues to allow ads on uniforms, aside from the logos of apparel suppliers. Many international sports leagues already sell these kinds of sponsorships. They are also popular among US soccer clubs, and the WNBA started adopting them in 2009.
The Celtics-GE arrangement marks the third such NBA deal to be announced. The Philadelphia 76ers were the first to finalize a sponsorship, signing up ticket selling platform StubHub last spring. The Sacramento Kings became the second, announcing in October that the Blue Diamond Almonds logo will appear on their jerseys.
The NBA said last year that the logos must be about 2.5 inches by 2.5 inches but can be adjusted to fit the dimensions of the sponsor’s logo. For example, a mockup of the future 76ers jersey shows that StubHub will be represented in a rectangular logo.
Some purists may well take issue with the appearance of the GE logo on the iconic Celtics uniform. But the NBA has maintained that the small, nonintrusive size of the logos will not be a distraction to the team’s jersey. The sponsor patch will not appear on jerseys that are sold nationally, but teams will have the option of selling shirts with the corporate logos in their own retail stores.
NBA fans who tune in for the All-Star Game next month will get a preview of the new sponsorship concept: The logo for Kia, the NBA’s official auto partner, will appear on players’ jerseys during that game.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver has in the past estimated that total revenue from these deals could top $100 million per year across the league, though cautioned that it could be “very unpredictable, how the marketplace will react” to 30 teams all clamoring for jersey sponsors at once.