New NBA jerseys blend fashion, tech to bring fans closer to the game

CULVER CITY, Calif. — Many believed the most significant difference in the NBA’s new 2017-18 uniforms would be the fact sponsor and outfit logos would be displayed on the front for the first time ever.

As it turns out, however, that was just a footnote when compared to what these puppies really have in store.

Most jersey launches are press conferences with designers regaling about techs and specs. But with the help of a sound stage lot at Sony Studios and hip-hop artist Travis Scott helping the crowd get warmed up, the NBA’s official unveiling of its new “Connect” jersey was something else, entirely.

This announcement was made in conjunction with the launch of the NBA’s new partnership with Nike. The uniforms will retail for the same $100-$200 price point, but they will come with a whole lot more added features than just stitched-on lettering.

Decades ago the decision to buy a jersey was rooted in pledging allegiance to your favourite player. For millennials that loyalty and level of interest is done via social media and purchasing players’ own signature fashion lines. The goal of the Nike Connect jerseys is enticing you to don a jersey once again with a greater experience with the NBA and its star players on all the platforms the league’s fans are using.

The company has introduced new innovation by syncing the jerseys to an app called NikeConnect. On that app — which will be available on iPhone 7 and up and Android device users with NFC capability — fans can access highlights of the player whose jersey they own as well as receive shoe deals. Additionally, that player’s stats are pushed to your phone in real time.

The NBA also uses the muscle of its broadcast rights to further enhance the experience by giving fans a chance to watch in-game sideline looks of their favourite player via the app, while another cool feature is the ability to listen to that player’s team pre-game playlist via Spotify.

Gamers haven’t been forgotten in this initiative, either. When fans scan the jersey’s “jock tag” with their smartphone, they’ll receive a “boost code” that makes the player whose jersey they own better in the NBA 2K18 video game.

Another added perk is players will release video messages only to those who have bought their jersey, making their interaction more intimate than their social media posts.

Hosted by Donnovan Bennett and JD Bunkis, Free Association takes fans inside the NBA with news, analysis and interviews.

On top of the features fans can take advantage of, these new jerseys are also about hard business. The smart jerseys will allow the league and the brand to access analytics on who is buying what player’s uniform and where they’re checking in from. This data and the ownership of content is a big reason why Nike paid $1 billion in 2015 for the league’s NBA rights for eight years starting this upcoming season.

The jerseys go on sale online and in stores Sept. 29. The “Statement” jerseys worn during the launch go on sale Nov. 20.

The NBA has pushed the envelope for its audience once again. They’re now using the fashion of the game as a distribution platform to be a content creator and if things keep trending in this direction it won’t be long until your team-issued apparel allows you to stream a game online while you’re wearing it.

It’s important to note we live in an era where baseball jerseys are literally the same as they were 50 years ago and going into this Nike-NBA jersey launch event, there was expectation of more of the same along those lines.

How wrong we were.

The technological possibilities Adam Silver and Phil Knight have unlocked by turning a piece of breathable fabric with your favourite team’s colours on it into a pathway to get even closer to the game is very exciting and something we’ve never seen before.

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