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Volume 21 No. 34
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NBA sponsors see recognition rebounds

NBA sponsors across the board saw an increase in the number of fans who could correctly identify them as league partners this season, according to the results of this year’s NBA sponsor loyalty survey conducted for SportsBusiness Journal by Turnkey Sports & Entertainment.

The numbers improve on those of last year, when sponsors saw mixed results compared with the previous season, and some companies appeared to lose traction with fans.

A number of the league’s sponsors this year scored their highest marks in the 10-year history of the survey, including Kia, American Express, PepsiCo, State Farm and BBVA Compass.

Kia scores recognition with fans and loyalty from LeBron James in ad campaign.
In the case of Kia, more than 26 percent of all fans surveyed this year were able to correctly identify the company as an official league sponsor. The response rate among avid fans was more than 37 percent.

Kia this past season became the first company to place non-apparel branding on jerseys in any of the four major U.S. pro sports leagues when NBA players wore a Kia logo patch on their jerseys at the All-Star Game in Toronto.

“We think it was effective,” said Shawn Morrissey, senior vice president of global partnerships at WME-IMG, which handles Kia in the United States. “We were cautiously optimistic that the public’s feedback would be positive, and for the most part ... it was. I believe the sophisticated and/or avid sports fan realizes that this is coming, in some manner, to most sports here in the U.S.”

The NBA this spring approved allowing teams leaguewide to have jersey ad patches starting with the 2017-18 season, moving forward on an idea NBA officials first actively discussed in 2011.

Kia has been an NBA partner since 2008. It renewed its sponsorship with the league in 2014 in a multiyear deal. It also that year signed LeBron James to an endorsement deal for promotion of its new luxury sedan, the K900. This season, it launched an ad campaign showing the Cleveland star and NBA Finals MVP rebutting tweets from fans doubting he actually drives a Kia.

Kia continued to feature Los Angeles Clippers star Blake Griffin in ads this season, as well, continuing a relationship that began in 2011, when Griffin famously dunked over a Kia to win the slam dunk contest during All-Star Weekend.

Among the other companies that scored their best marks in the survey’s history, American Express was recognized by 23 percent of all fans surveyed as having a deal with the league in the credit card category.

“We really changed the way that we approached the partnership this season,” said Deborah Curtis, vice president of global experiential marketing and partnerships at American Express. “We’ve really developed as a platform that speaks to our brand and who we are, but also really resonates and is a clear collaboration with the NBA and a reflection of what their fans care about.”

Since 2015, American Express has been the presenting sponsor of the halftime shows for NBA coverage on TNT and NBA TV. It also was the halftime show sponsor for the NBA Finals on ABC this month. In addition, the company has partnered with fellow league sponsor BBVA Compass on a co-branded card that lets customers earn points from buying NBA tickets and from making in-arena and NBAStore.com purchases. Customers can customize the card with the logo and colors of a favorite NBA team, as well.

The 2015-16 NBA season brought a notable change for the league in its soft drink category, when PepsiCo took over rights in a category that Coca-Cola had filled for 29 years. PepsiCo is featuring its Mountain Dew brand in its NBA activations (Coca-Cola featured its Sprite label), and while scores for Mountain Dew did trail other brands in response rate in this year’s survey, its marks were up compared with last year.

Similarly, league sponsor Taco Bell continues to trail McDonald’s in the survey in the quick-service restaurant category but saw its numbers go up this year. Taco Bell had 16 percent of all survey respondents correctly identify it as a league sponsor, a third consecutive annual increase, but that rate still trails the 25 percent of respondents who incorrectly selected McDonald’s as being the league’s QSR sponsor — a standing McDonald’s did have from 1990 to 2009.

State Farm ranked first in the insurance category for the third consecutive year. More than 22 percent of all fans surveyed correctly identified it as a league sponsor.

Methodology

For this project, Turnkey Sports & Entertainment, through its Turnkey Intelligence operation, conducted national consumer research surveys among a sample of more than 400 members of the Toluna online panel who were at least 18 years old.

The 2016 survey was conducted May 17-25, a period that coincided with the NBA conference finals. The 2015 and 2014 surveys were conducted at a similar time.

Respondents were screened and analyzed based on their general avidity levels. Fans categorized as “avid” were those who responded “4” or “5” to the question “How big a fan are you of the NBA?” and claimed to “look up news, scores and standings several times a week or more often,” “watch/listen/attend at least 10 games per season” and “have a favorite team.” Fans categorized as “casual” responded “3” to the same initial question, then claimed to “look up news, scores and standings several times a month or more often,” “watch/listen/attend at least 3 games per season” and “have a favorite team.”

When asked to identify official sponsors, respondents selected from a field of companies and brands that was provided to them for each business sector. Only the top-scoring companies and brands are listed in the results published here. The percentage responses listed have been rounded. The margin of error for each survey is +/- 4.9.
Turnkey Intelligence performs research for an array of North American major league teams, league offices and brands. The NBA and 24 of the league’s teams are among Turnkey’s clients.

IMPACT ON SAMPLING AND SUPPORT

Are you more or less likely to consider trying a product/service if that product/service is an official sponsor of the NBA?

  Avid Casual
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
More likely 62.0% 47.5% 54.8% 35.5% 35.9% 25.1%
Unaffected / less likely 38.0% 52.5% 45.3% 64.5% 64.2% 74.9%

Are you more or less likely to consciously support a company by purchasing its products/services if the company is an official sponsor of the NBA?

  Avid Casual
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
More likely 62.0% 53.5% 53.8% 36.0% 36.9% 29.1%
Unaffected / less likely 38.0% 46.5% 46.3% 64.0% 63.2% 70.8%

Are you more or less likely to recommend a product/service to a friend or family member if that product/service is an official sponsor of the NBA?

  Avid Casual
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
More likely 62.0% 52.0% 51.8% 36.5% 33.9% 26.6%
Unaffected / less likely 38.0% 48.0% 48.3% 63.5% 66.2% 73.4%

SPONSORSHIP SIGNIFICANCE AND ASSESSMENT

Subject: How much more likely are fans to consider purchasing/using an NBA sponsor’s product/service if they are aware of the relationship?
To read: 43 percent of NBA fans said they would be more likely to consider purchasing electronics from a company that is the league’s official sponsor if they knew which company had that designation. The rate increased to 67 percent when considering only those fans who correctly knew that Samsung has a deal with the league in that space.

CATEGORY (NBA SPONSOR) AMONG ALL NBA FANS AMONG NBA FANS WHO CORRECTLY IDENTIFIED THE SPONSOR DIFFERENCE
Consumer electronics* (Samsung) 43% 67% +24 pct. points
Quick-service restaurant (Taco Bell) 44% 65% +21 pct. points
Insurance (State Farm) 40% 53% +13 pct. points
Credit card (American Express) 41% 52% +11 pct. points
Soft drink (Mountain Dew) 48% 58% +10 pct. points
Automotive (Kia) 43% 52% +9 pct. points
Bank (BBVA Compass) 39% 47% +8 pct. points
Sports drink (Gatorade) 48% 55% +7 pct. points
Wireless service (Verizon) 41% 47% +6 pct. points
Beer (Budweiser/Bud Light) 42% 44% +2 pct. points

Subject: What brands do fans think should be NBA sponsors?
To read: 58 percent of NBA fans said they think Gatorade should be an NBA sponsor, compared with 21 percent who think Powerade should have an NBA deal. Those numbers became 68 percent and 19 percent, respectively, when considering only those NBA fans who correctly knew that Gatorade is the NBA’s official sponsor in the sports drink category.

  AMONG ALL NBA FANS AMONG NBA FANS WHO CORRECTLY IDENTIFIED THE SPONSOR
NBA SPONSOR/COMPETITOR RESPONSE RATES DIFFERENCE RESPONSE RATES DIFFERENCE
Gatorade/Powerade 58% / 21% +37 pct. points 68% / 19% +49 pct. points
Verizon/Sprint 48% / 20% +28 pct. points 67% / 20% +47 pct. points
Budweiser, Bud Light/Miller Lite 53% / 21% +32 pct. points 69% / 23% +46 pct. points
State Farm/Progressive 39% / 23% +16 pct. points 62% / 20% +42 pct. points
Samsung/LG 45% / 18% +27 pct. points 61% / 22% +39 pct. points
American Express/Visa 39% / 49% -10 pct. points 66% / 47% +19 pct. points
Kia/Honda 20% / 26% -6 pct. points 37% / 23% +14 pct. points
BBVA Compass/Wells Fargo 10% / 29% -19 pct. points 38% / 25% +13 pct. points
Mountain Dew/Sprite 15% / 23% -8 pct. points 32% / 32% None
Taco Bell/McDonald’s 23% / 59% -36 pct. points 38% / 57% -19 pct. points

* Samsung’s official category designation with the NBA is “handset, tablet and television.”
Notes: Fans could select both the official sponsor and the competitor if they chose to do so. The one specific competing company listed was selected by Turnkey for consideration in the survey file.

Which of the following is an official sponsor of the NBA?

  Avid Casual
Soft Drink
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
Pepsi 24.0% 21.0% 15.9% 23.5% 18.4% 14.6%
Coca-Cola 24.5% 23.0% 26.4% 19.5% 19.4% 20.1%
Sprite 18.0% 18.5% 19.9% 10.5% 11.9% 16.1%
Mountain Dew* 5.5% 3.0% 4.5% 4.0% 3.5% 1.0%
I’m not sure 20.0% 24.5% 26.4% 34.5% 38.8% 42.7%
The 2015-16 season was the NBA’s first with PepsiCo as an official sponsor after a 29-year relationship with Coca-Cola. The company is featuring its Mountain Dew brand in the sponsorship, including positioning it as presenting sponsor of the 2016 NBA All-Star Celebrity Game. In May, the Dew NBA 3X nationwide three-on-three contest tipped off, with winners of competitions this summer slated to compete in Los Angeles this fall.
  Avid Casual
AUTOMOBILE
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
Kia* 37.5% 29.0% 25.4% 15.5% 14.4% 16.1%
Toyota 15.5% 12.0% 14.9% 9.0% 7.5% 10.1%
Ford 7.0% 14.5% 8.5% 10.5% 5.0% 7.0%
Chevrolet/GM 6.5% 8.5% 8.5% 1.5% 11.4% 10.1%
Dodge/Chrysler 1.5% 4.0% 2.5% 3.5% 6.5% 2.5%
I’m not sure 24.5% 28.0% 30.8% 44.5% 50.2% 51.3%
Kia had the distinction this season of having its logo appear on players’ jerseys at this year’s All-Star Game, the first time a non-apparel logo has appeared on an NBA jersey during a game. The patch was part of an advertising buy between Turner Sports (the game’s broadcaster) and Kia Motors America. Kia has been the league’s automotive partner since 2008.
  Avid Casual
Credit Card
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
American Express* 28.0% 21.5% 16.4% 18.0% 16.4% 15.1%
Visa 22.0% 25.5% 29.9% 18.0% 19.9% 19.1%
MasterCard 11.5% 10.0% 12.9% 12.5% 10.9% 10.1%
Discover 5.5% 3.5% 6.0% 6.0% 5.0% 6.0%
I’m not sure 31.5% 35.0% 34.8% 43.0% 44.8% 45.2%
American Express and Turner Sports announced a multiyear deal before the start of the 2015-16 season that made AmEx the presenting sponsor of the NBA on TNT and NBA TV halftime shows during both the regular season and playoffs, as well as TNT’s All-Star Game coverage. On the heels of that visibility, the company for the first time since 2010, when it returned as a league sponsor, had more fans correctly identify it as the league’s credit card sponsor than the number who incorrectly selected rival Visa.
  Avid Casual
INSURANCE
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
State Farm* 28.0% 20.5% 22.4% 16.5% 17.4% 8.0%
Geico 15.5% 17.5% 13.9% 14.5% 12.9% 11.6%
Allstate 13.0% 12.0% 12.4% 10.5% 10.9% 9.5%
Progressive 6.5% 7.0% 6.0% 4.0% 6.0% 6.5%
I’m not sure 32.0% 31.5% 37.8% 47.0% 43.3% 56.3%
State Farm in January extended its NBA sponsorship, which began in 2010, in a six-year deal. The renewal added USA Basketball and NBA D-League rights. The insurer featured “The Hoopers” for its prime ad campaign this year, with a series of spots that showcased Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Kevin Garnett, Damian Lillard and Kevin Love.
  Avid Casual
Bank
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
BBVA Compass* 23.5% 12.5% 16.4% 13.0% 11.4% 11.1%
Bank of America 14.0% 13.5% 10.0% 10.0% 12.4% 10.1%
Wells Fargo 8.0% 13.0% 13.9% 8.0% 8.0% 8.5%
Citibank 7.5% 8.0% 9.0% 7.5% 7.0% 5.5%
JPMorgan Chase 7.5% 7.0% 8.0% 5.0% 8.0% 6.0%
I’m not sure 33.5% 38.5% 37.8% 52.0% 51.7% 56.3%
BBVA Compass has been a league partner since 2010. In December, the company signed Becky Hammon, the NBA’s first full-time female coach, as its newest brand ambassador and featured Hammon in an ad for its #BrightFutures campaign.
  Avid Casual
Wireless Service
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
Verizon* 25.0% 15.5% 13.9% 19.5% 16.4% 11.1%
AT&T 15.5% 24.0% 17.4% 15.0% 10.4% 13.6%
Sprint 14.0% 17.5% 24.4% 10.5% 15.4% 14.6%
T-Mobile 11.5% 9.5% 16.4% 6.5% 8.0% 14.1%
I’m not sure 29.5% 30.5% 25.9% 40.5% 44.3% 43.7%
Verizon in November became the NBA’s newest sponsor, taking over rights to a category that had been held by Sprint since 2011. As part of the deal, Verizon became title sponsor of the All-Star Slam Dunk Contest and presenting partner of the All-Star Balloting Program. Verizon also made NBA League Pass available through its Go90 mobile video service.
  Avid Casual
Sports Drink
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
Gatorade* 62.0% 55.5% 52.7% 49.0% 42.8% 42.7%
Powerade 11.0% 5.5% 10.0% 10.5% 10.0% 6.5%
Red Bull 5.5% 8.0% 6.5% 5.5% 4.0% 7.0%
I’m not sure 16.5% 21.5% 20.9% 27.5% 34.3% 41.2%
An NBA sponsor since 1984, Gatorade used this year’s playoffs to spotlight a new ad for its relaunched Frost brand. The 30-second spot stars Miami’s Dwyane Wade and hall of famer George Gervin.
  Avid Casual
Beer
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
Budweiser/Bud Light* 44.5% 23.5% 28.4% 40.0% 22.4% 25.6%
Miller Lite 6.0% 13.5% 11.4% 7.5% 10.0% 9.0%
Coors Light 6.0% 13.5% 12.4% 7.5% 7.5% 8.0%
Heineken 7.0% 5.0% 6.0% 1.5% 4.5% 2.5%
Corona 6.0% 6.0% 4.0% 2.0% 3.5% 2.5%
I’m not sure 27.5% 33.5% 30.8% 38.5% 46.8% 49.2%
Anheuser-Busch InBev signed a four-year renewal as the NBA’s official beer partner in November, continuing a designation the brewer has held since 1998. The deal added new rights to USA Basketball and gave the company the right to feature limited game footage on its digital and social media outlets. In addition, A-B, which has 22 team deals, can now use a team’s marks on a limited basis outside of its home market.
  Avid Casual
Quick-service Restaurant
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
McDonald’s 30.5% 24.5% 32.8% 20.0% 23.9% 23.1%
Taco Bell* 15.0% 18.5% 15.4% 16.5% 10.4% 10.6%
Subway 9.0% 11.0% 13.9% 8.5% 8.0% 9.5%
KFC 3.5% 1.0% 4.0% 2.5% 4.5% 4.5%
I’m not sure 31.0% 30.0% 26.9% 42.0% 45.8% 45.2%
Taco Bell signed as the league’s new official QSR in 2009, but its deal with the league is up this summer. And while it’s seen its fan recognition score increase in recent years, it still trails its predecessor sponsor in the category, McDonald’s. This season, the company featured the Taco Bell Live Mas Hysteria Contest from Christmas through the end of the regular season. For a chance to win tickets to a first-round playoff game, fans submitted their “Live Mas Hysteria Reactions” to NBA plays by uploading a video to Twitter or Instagram with the hashtags #LiveMasHysteria and #contest.
  Avid Casual
Handset, Tablet and Television
  2016 2015 2014 2016 2015 2014
Samsung* 33.0% NA NA 23.0% NA NA
Apple 7.0% NA NA 8.0% NA NA
Sony 4.5% NA NA 7.0% NA NA
LG 5.0% NA NA 6.0% NA NA
I’m not sure 43.5% NA NA 50.5% NA NA
Samsung signed a three-year, $100 million deal to be the official handset, tablet and TV provider for the NBA, WNBA and NBA D-League in 2013. That deal expires this summer. For the third consecutive year, the company this winter hosted the Samsung Experience as part of the league’s All-Star Game festivities.

* Official sponsor
^ The survey listed brand products this year, whereas in prior years, company names Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Coors were listed.
NA: Not applicable; category was not assessed in this year’s survey.


10-YEAR LEADERBOARD: WHO'S BEING RECOGNIZED?

Turnkey Sports & Entertainment has polled NBA fans for the past 10 years to ask which companies hold the league's official sponsorship rights in select categories. Here are the results of those surveys — showing the marks for the companies that hold (or have held) official sponsorship rights with the NBA, and the results for some of their prime competitors.
Response rates indicate the percentage of people polled who thought that the particular company or brand was the NBA's official sponsor in that category.

Credit Card
  2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
American Express (1995-2004; 2010-present) 21.2% 20.6% 20.6% 18.5% 20.0% 19.8% 8.3% 15.8% 19.0% 23.0%
Visa 15.5% 17.8% 18.0% 22.8% 24.4% 19.8% 19.3% 24.5% 22.7% 20.0%
MasterCard 14.3% 12.5% 11.2% 7.5% 6.9% 8.8% 6.3% 11.5% 10.5% 12.0%
Discover 5.2% 4.7% 4.9% 4.8% 5.5% 4.5% 6.3% 6.0% 4.3% 5.8%
Note: This category was open at the league level for 2004-10.
WIRELESS SERVICE
  2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Verizon (2015-present) 13.2% 14.6% 17.8% 18.4% 11.4% 11.5% 12.5% 16.0% 22.3%
AT&T 18.3% 15.3% 10.1% 9.1% 10.7% 10.8% 15.5% 17.2% 15.3%
Sprint (2011-2015) 9.9% 9.2% 5.5% 6.8% 16.4% 10.3% 19.5% 16.5% 12.3%
T-Mobile (2005-2011) 17.4% 19.6% 26.8% 25.7% 18.1% 11.8% 15.3% 8.8% 9.0%
Note: Fans were not polled on this category before 2008.
AUTOMOTIVE
  2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Kia (2008-present) 6.7% 11.3% 17.9% 24.7% 14.0% 20.8% 21.7% 26.5%
Toyota 4.2% 8.1% 7.7% 8.6% 12.6% 10.0% 7.3% 12.5% 9.8% 12.3%
Ford 14.6% 14.6% 13.7% 10.1% 8.9% 8.7% 8.8% 7.8% 9.8% 8.8%
GM (Chevrolet, Pontiac, Cadillac) 22.7% 18.3% 13.9% 17.0% 9.1% 8.7% 8.8% 9.3% 10.0% 8.5%
INSURANCE
  2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
State Farm (2010-present) 6.4% 6.8% 10.1% 11.7% 11.5% 15.2% 19.0% 22.3%
Geico 17.1% 14.5% 13.9% 11.9% 12.8% 12.8% 15.2% 15.0%
Allstate 14.0% 9.1% 10.2% 8.0% 12.0% 11.0% 11.5% 11.8%
Progressive 3.3% 3.0% 2.2% 4.5% 4.0% 6.3% 6.5% 5.3%
Note: Fans were not polled on this category before 2009.
SPORTS DRINK
  2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Gatorade (1984-present) 57.2% 48.6% 46.7% 51.6% 50.7% 53.8% 39.8% 47.7% 49.2% 55.5%
Powerade 11.4% 12.2% 8.4% 5.3% 5.4% 4.8% 6.0% 8.3% 7.8% 10.8%
Red Bull 3.9% 3.6% 3.0% 4.8% 6.0% 4.0% 7.5% 6.8% 6.0% 5.5%
BEER
  2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Anheuser-Busch (1998-present) 35.1% 32.4% 30.5% 26.8% 32.6% 29.8% 19.5% 27.0% 23.0% 42.3%
Coors 9.0% 11.8% 10.7% 7.5% 7.0% 10.4% 10.8% 10.2% 10.5% 6.8%
Miller 15.9% 16.8% 9.7% 15.8% 11.2% 9.0% 9.8% 10.2% 11.8% 6.8%
Heineken 1.5% 4.0% 4.3% 1.8% 3.6% 4.3% 2.0% 4.3% 4.8% 4.3%
SOFT DRINK
  2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Pepsi 18.6% 18.6% 15.4% 15.5% 13.2% 10.5% 13.5% 15.3% 19.7% 23.8%
Coca-Cola 27.7% 28.0% 26.3% 20.3% 19.9% 20.7% 15.8% 23.3% 21.2% 22.0%
Sprite (1986-2015) 14.5% 11.2% 14.9% 16.8% 17.5% 24.8% 16.0% 18.0% 15.2% 14.3%
Mountain Dew (2015-present) 2.4% 4.9% 2.3% 2.3% 2.3% 1.5% 2.3% 2.8% 3.3% 4.8%
BANK
  2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
BBVA Compass (2010-present) 10.2% 12.1% 6.8% 13.8% 12.0% 18.3%
Bank of America 19.8% 15.3% 13.8% 12.9% 14.0% 10.1% 13.0% 12.0%
Wells Fargo 2.3% 4.5% 3.8% 4.5% 5.0% 11.2% 10.5% 8.0%
Citibank 10.0% 13.3% 6.8% 7.2% 7.3% 7.3% 7.5% 7.5%
Notes: Fans were not polled on this category before 2009, and BBVA Compass was not among the listed options for survey respondents until 2011.
QUICK-SERVICE RESTAURANT
  2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
McDonald's (1990-2009) 22.5% 15.9% 17.5% 16.5% 19.4% 17.1% 18.3% 28.0% 24.2% 25.3%
Taco Bell (2009-present) 1.4% 5.6% 2.8% 18.5% 19.8% 18.0% 8.3% 13.0% 14.5% 15.8%
Subway 4.8% 7.7% 4.3% 9.8% 11.9% 9.9% 8.8% 11.7% 9.5% 8.8%
KFC 2.9% 6.9% 6.1% 6.3% 2.8% 4.3% 3.0% 4.3% 2.8% 3.0%