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Volume 25 No. 86

Marketing and Sponsorship

Official NBA sponsors like Kia, State Farm and Taco Bell will be well-represented across media platforms

Around 90% of available ad inventory for this year's NBA playoffs "already has been snapped up," as interest in the postseason is "particularly elevated, given how the league has managed to defy the gravitational forces that have dragged down the ratings for pretty much everything else on TV," according to Anthony Crupi of AD AGE. TNT and ESPN/ABC for the first time have "lined up presenting sponsorships for their respective live playoff packages." TNT has a "comprehensive deal securing Hulu as the presenting sponsor of its full slate." The company has "committed to air a number of in-game spots" during TNT's coverage, including a "selection of custom branded spots featuring TNT's studio talent." Meanwhile, ESPN/ABC have "locked in PepsiCo's breakfast drink Mountain Dew Kickstart as the marquee backer of their first-round playoff action." ESPN also "tapped ExxonMobil to serve as the presenting sponsor" for coverage of the Eastern Conference Finals. The three major sponsorship deals "come on the heels of last month's news that YouTube TV had agreed to a multiyear pact to serve as the presenting partner of ABC's coverage of the NBA Finals." AmEx is "onboard to back the halftime show" on ABC/ESPN, while Autotrader and Kia reprise their respective pre- and postgame duties. During the first round, ABC's version of "NBA Countdown" will be "sponsored by Straight Talk Wireless." Official NBA sponsors like Kia, State Farm, AutoTrader, Taco Bell, A-B InBev, PepsiCo, Nike, AmEx and Samsung "will be well-represented across all media platforms" (, 4/13).

PERSONAL TOUCH: ADWEEK's Katie Richards noted Warriors G Stephen Curry stars in a new spot for Kaiser Permanente in which viewers "get a chance to see some of the highs and lows in Curry’s life and career." The ad, via Translation, is titled "Wins and Losses" and closes "with the line 'Train the mind. The body will follow'" (, 4/13). Meanwhile, a new spot for "NBA 2K18" shows former NBAer Kevin Garnett "moping around in his trademark precariously poised hoodie, followed by a children’s choir and actor/Fox Sports personality Michael Rapaport, who all sing a tweaked version of 'Pachelbel’s Canon' with lots of KG in-jokes." The digital film "marks Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners’ first work for NBA 2K" (, 4/12).

The PGA of America has signed a deal with A-B InBev that makes the brewer’s Michelob Ultra brand the official beer sponsor of the Ryder Cup and the PGA Championship. The deal includes rights for the Ryder Cup through ‘20 as well as the PGA Championship through ‘19. The sponsorship begins with this year’s PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis set for Aug. 6-12. Beginning with the ‘19 PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, Ultra also will be the presenting sponsor of the Wanamaker Club hospitality venue. The brand will be the presenting sponsor of the Int’l Pavilion for the ‘20 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisc. Michelob Ultra will have promotional rights at retail. No media is included in the agreement. No agencies were involved in the deal. Ultra is also the official beer sponsor of the PGA Tour in a deal that runs through ‘20. The PGA of America has not had a national beer sponsor for the past decade. “We’ve had local beer deals for the last several years so it’s a big step forward to find a brand willing to work nationally with us,” PGA of America Senior Dir of Partnerships Luke Reissman said.

Kaepernick had a recently scheduled workout with the Seahawks canceled, reportedly over his anthem stance

Adidas North America President Mark King said that the company "wants to sign Colin Kaepernick to an endorsement deal but has held off" because he "isn’t on an NFL roster," according to Greg Moore of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. Speaking Friday at Arizona State's Global Sport Summit, King said that Adidas "doesn’t want to give the impression that it’s 'taking advantage of this noise or interest that he had generated.'" King said, “If he signs on a team, we would definitely want to sign him. ... We love athletes that have a platform to make the world a better place. If they’re an activist in a way that brings attention to something that moves the world forward, even if there’s controversy at that moment, we’re really interested in those athletes because I think it represents the world today.” He added that the position "represents a shift over the last three years in which Adidas has come to represent an 'intersection between culture and sports'" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 4/14). Kaepernick, who has not played since the '16 season, had a scheduled workout with the Seahawks canceled last week after he would not commit to not kneeling during the national anthem if he was signed (THE DAILY).

Crawford may get an agreement that allows him to be under the brand yet still pursue personal endeavors

Pelicans G Jordan Crawford is "in talks for a partnership deal with Big Baller Brand," according to sources cited by Shams Charania of YAHOO SPORTS. The company is "expected to send Crawford new merchandise, including shoes, this week for the NBA playoffs." Crawford became the first NBA player outside of Lakers G Lonzo Ball to "wear the brand this season and has continued to do so in the postseason." This is not a "normal endorsement deal for Crawford, but he would sign a contract with Big Baller Brand down the line that would allow him to be under the brand yet have the freedom to pursue his own personal endeavors." Crawford and BBB are "expected to continue talks toward a new deal" (, 4/15). 

LAUGHING TO THE BANK: This weekend's episode of “SNL” saw cast member Kenan Thompson reprise his role as LaVar Ball and discuss the family's business ventures (THE DAILY). ESPN's Jalen Rose said of the spoof, "As long as we’re talking about Big Baller Brand, an independent company, it’s a win for them. They’re not Nike and they’re not adidas, but we’re discussing them, That’s a win" ("Get Up!," ESPN, 4/16).

The new font will be implemented over time rather than a sweeping change across all teams and facilities

The Univ. of Oklahoma athletic department and Nike have created "new 'official marks' as OU prepares for its move to Jordan Brand in football and men's and women's basketball," according to Cody Stavenhagen of the TULSA WORLD. OU is "unveiling a new font called 'Sooner Born' that will be used on all team uniforms, in team facilities and other OU marketing components." The school also has "'streamlined' its famous interlocking logo." The new font will be "implemented over time rather than a sweeping change across all teams and facilities." Fans will be able to "purchase merchandise using the new font in early May" (TULSA WORLD, 4/14). The new marks are "already being used in the Switzer Center and in other facilities in the south end zone" (OKLAHOMAN, 4/14).