The Cleveland Cavaliers now have two strong ties to nearby Akron.
Already with four-time league MVP LeBron James at small forward, the Cavs announced Monday afternoon at Quicken Loans Arena that they had reached a partnership with Goodyear Tire and Rubber to wear the company’s Wingfoot logo on game jerseys beginning next season.
The agreement is part of the NBA’s three-year pilot program to sell ads on uniforms. The 2ﾽ-inch-by-2 ﾽ-inch logo will appear on the front left of the jersey, opposite a Nike swoosh, which will accompany uniforms leaguewide beginning in 2017-18.
The 32-year-old James was born in Akron and attended St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, while Goodyear was founded in the city in 1898.
“Every Akron kid grew up seeing the Wingfoot in the sky on the blimp and feeling pride in our community,” James said in a press release. “There is something special for me personally about having that on the Cavs uniform.
“Goodyear is very supportive of the LeBron James Family Foundation. I can’t imagine a better situation with our new Cavs jersey than bringing together Nike and Goodyear, two companies that mean a lot to me and my family.”
The Cavs’ wine uniforms will feature a gold and navy Wingfoot logo, while the white jerseys will be adorned with a wine logo.
“Even growing up (in Missouri), being a (St. Louis) Cardinals fan and watching baseball, you always see Goodyear,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said following practice in Independence. “They’re always affiliated with sports.”
It is not known how much Goodyear paid to have its logo displayed on Cavs jerseys — deals are typically bringing in $5-10 million a year, and defending champion Cleveland is probably on the high end — but Lue had an idea what the team could do with the money: “Give it to me,” he joked.
ESPN.com, using Apex Marketing Group’s Eric Smallwood as its expert, reported the logo could be worth $7-10 million a year in advertising to Goodyear. Adding video games, trading cards and social media, the value could reach $30 million annually, Smallwood told ESPN.
The Cavs are among a handful of NBA teams that have reached logo deals since the league’s board of governors agreed a month ago to allow advertising on jerseys. Others include Philadelphia (StubHub), Sacramento (Blue Diamond), Boston (General Electric), Brooklyn (Infor) and Utah (Qualtrics).
As a compromise to fans, many of whom didn’t like the idea of ads on uniforms, only jerseys without the new logos will be sold through the NBA store, but teams can choose to sell jerseys with the patch through their retail shops.
“This partnership had to be something that our entire franchise, and specifically our team, believed in and can now be inspired by,” Cavs general manager David Griffin said. “Having the Wingfoot become part of the actual fabric of our identity does that.”
Cleveland guard Iman Shumpert said after practice that he initially favored the look of a “classic jersey” without advertising, but quickly jumped on board.
“Seeing how they’re doing it, understanding why they’re doing it, and me, I kind of got the best of both worlds,” he said. “I got to play in a jersey without it and I guess I’ll be one of the first ones to play with it.”
Goodyear, whose Wingfoot logo is iconic in Akron, is no stranger to basketball.
Founded in 1918, the Akron Wingfoots were among 13 company-sponsored teams that formed the National Basketball League in 1937. The Wingfoots, whose roster later included future NBA coach Larry Brown, won the title in the inaugural season.
In 1949, some NBL teams joined the new NBA as part of a merger, but the Wingfoots had temporarily disbanded in 1943 due to poor on-court performance and declining player availability because of World War II.
From 1946-61, the Wingfoots were part of the National Industrial Basketball League, which then changed to the National Alliance of Basketball Leagues, with Goodyear regaining national prominence in the 1960s and participating through 1973.
“It was just meant to be that a global iconic brand like Goodyear is our neighbor headquartered in Akron, Ohio, and shares the same DNA of basketball, community purpose and drive for success as the Cavs,” Len Komoroski, the Cavs’ chief executive officer, said in a press release.
The Cavs and Goodyear also announced they would give $1 million to STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) programs in the Cleveland and Akron public school systems.
“This is a natural fit between two organizations in Northeast Ohio whose strong brands have a global following,” Rich Kramer, CEO of Goodyear, said in a press release.