NBA to sell ads in virtual universe of new esports league

When the NBA's new esports league kicks off in May, the virtual jerseys and stadiums in the game NBA2K18 will be sponsored.

The ability to sell virtual inventory was revealed earlier this week when the Cleveland Cavaliers announced that its team will wear Cavs Legion Gaming jerseys within the game with a Hot Pockets logo on it.

The Cavs are one of 17 teams participating in the league.

Longtime Knicks sponsor Chase and its new jersey sponsor SquareSpace will have presence in the virtual arena that the Knicks Gaming team will be in, which will not be called Madison Square Garden.

As part of its presentation to teams when briefing them to participate in the esports league, the NBA offered teams the right to sell the naming rights on their virtual stadium, which will be used for their home games.

Teams can sell patches on their virtual jerseys within the game, a logo on the team's basketball court and signage around the arena. Each team will be responsible for controlling its own virtual signage, but the league does have to approve of the sponsors within the game.

"We believe that this will be a great opportunity," said Brendan Donohue, NBA 2K league managing director.

In some cases, a team's real jersey patch sponsor has secured digital rights to the jersey patch in the team's 2K league, but for many, it's a new revenue stream.

The Milwaukee Bucks, for example, who have Harley Davidson on their actual jerseys, are currently in the market to sell the virtual patch on their Bucks gaming jerseys for games.

The Cavs were the first team to actually sign a deal with a new sponsor.

"We were looking for a local sponsor and Nestle, which owns Hot Pockets, is located in the Cleveland suburbs," said Jonathan Sumers, senior director of digital partnership for the team. Hot Pockets also sponsors Matthew "Nadeshot" Haag, who is the CEO of the Cavaliers' new League of Legends team, 100 Thieves.

Gamers who are at least 18 years old qualify for a league combine by winning 50 games in the Pro-Am mode of NBA2K18 in January. A combine and a draft -- each team will draft five players -- will follow.

Teams plan to house their teams in their home cities.

There's still plenty up in the air, such as where the games will be played, how many games will be played and on what platform the games will be streamed on.

The league has only said it will pay competitive salaries, but it has not disclosed the amount.

Joining the Cavaliers, Knicks and Bucks in the league are teams owned by the Utah Jazz, Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Orlando Magic, Toronto Raptors, Dallas Mavericks, Philadelphia 76ers, Sacramento Kings, Memphis Grizzlies, Washington Wizards, Portland Trail Blazers and the Golden State Warriors.