That’s the brand logo patch of Rakuten that you see on the upper left chest area of the Golden State Warriors team jerseys. (It’s a red or a white Rakuten logo, depending on which Warriors jersey.) Rakuten is the first brand — besides the makers of the NBA uniforms (which this year is Nike) — to be featured on a Warriors jersey. The 2017-2018 NBA season marks the first year that NBA teams are offering a spot on their jerseys to outside advertisers. It’s a marketing technique familiar to fans of global soccer and other sports, where top teams in the English Premier League (and elsewhere) have given over the majority of space — not just the NBA’s 2.5 x 2.5 inch patch — on their team jerseys to corporate branding. Fly Emirates, anyone?
Rakuten is a Japan-based global technology company paying the Warriors $20 million a year for the Rakuten-branded logo to appear on the Warriors game uniforms in a 3-year deal. (Rakuten also gets naming rights to the Warriors practice facility, now called the Rakuten Performance Center.) If the Rakuten logo looks familiar, it could be because you’ve seen the Rakuten name writ large on the famous FC Barcelona jerseys in La Liga. In Japanese, Rakuten “stands for optimism.” Rakuten began in 1997 as a digital shopping site that resembled Amazon. Rakuten now has 1 billion members and “70+ businesses that span e-commerce, digital content, communications, and fintech.” In October, Rakuten also announced a huge deal to be the sole provider of NBA game telecasts in Japan.