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Volume 21 No. 26

Marketing and Sponsorship


he tone at the recent ANA conference was decidedly mixed. CMOs from America’s top brands concurred that something was broken, but there wasn’t the same unanimity on what it was or how to fix it.

For a conference with growth as its theme, there was the admission that many of the brands represented here weren’t growing.

As has been the case at brand marketing’s top conference in recent years, the incursion of technology on the marketing business was both welcomed and dismissed. Sure, the acceptance of analytics, big data and the like is near complete.

“When I became a marketer, it was part art and part science,” MGM Resorts CMO Lili Tomovich said. “Now, it’s art, science and technology, and the technology part is getting bigger.”

Still, to many marketers, the new landscape looks not just unfamiliar but hazardous. A multiplicity of media distribution changes, and variations in media consumption, are confounding many. To some, old media seemed as perplexing as the digital variety.

“There’s a challenge for all of us to find out what a consistent measurement is.” - Kristin Lemkau, JPMorgan chase
Photos by: ANA (3)
“Brands are trying to fly through a Bermuda Triangle,” said Scott Hagedorn, CEO of Omnicom media agency Hearts & Science, noting a 20 percent to 30 percent TV ratings erosion over the past four years, especially pronounced among millennials and Gen-Xers. Nonetheless, as ratings have declined, pricing for television adverting has increased. The TV reality: “It’s been getting more expensive to reach fewer eyeballs,” Hagedorn said.

Content was still the word most heard at the conference, but outside of sports, the content game has dramatically realigned. As more than one speaker noted, more Emmys were awarded to networks that do not accept advertising than to those that are advertiser supported. With the content, distribution and shifting consumption landscapes, complaints about measurement have grown. ‘We’re missing nearly 50 percent of millennials and Gen-Xers,” Hagedorn said. “Why aren’t brands growing? We don’t have the coverage to talk to the entire audience.”

Added JPMorgan Chase CMO Kristin Lemkau, “There’s a challenge for all of us to find out what a consistent measurement is.”

Even as marketers spend more on digital advertising, that advertising medium has never been more in question. A lack of transparency, and even fraud, in the digital supply chain has amplified concerns, even as digital advertising now surpasses TV spending.

“It’s time for digital media to grow up,” cautioned Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer at Procter & Gamble, which announced digital advertising cuts of $100 million earlier this year, terming those eliminated “largely ineffective.”

So while growth was the theme, change was the reality. “You’ve got to evolve or perish,” said Walmart CMO Tony Rogers, noting the graveyard of large American retailers that failed to do so. “Not only does your business need to evolve, your brand does, too.”

[Marketing is] art, science and technology, and the technology part is getting bigger.” - Lili Tomovich, MGM Resorts
“Brand Safety” was another principal concern with marketers fearful that their ever-increasing supply of digital ads would end up adjacent to offensive web content, such as hate speech or fake news. There are, however, all kinds of digital imperatives.

“If you’re in a company today with a decent-sized marketing budget, you’ve got a board focused on how fast you’re becoming digital marketing experts,” said Andy England, the former MillerCoors CMO who’s now CEO of National CineMedia, an ad network across 1,700 theaters. “You can tell them, ‘I’m worried about brand safety and actual views being tampered with by bots. But their imperative is still, ‘How fast can you get us into more digital?’”

After about 20 years of digital advertising, marketers were calling for advancements, so that the dream of “mass one-to-one marketing” might be achieved. Instead, Walmart’s Rogers recalled that he bought tuxedo shoes online last year, which were “the last pair I will ever buy, but that’s the online ad I see every day.” As Antonio Lucio, HP global chief marketing and communication officer, put it: “That blue sweater ad you click on today is going to follow you around the Internet until you die and I don’t know why.”

“Whether it’s media fragmentation, big data or the explosion of analytics types and CIOs, there’s just such massive complexity now in marketing, it’s difficult for anyone to understand it all,” said Chris Thomas, CEO of BBDO, The Americas, who supervises 20-plus BBDO agencies in his region.

“Some of the biggest traditional advertisers, particularly the [consumer packaged goods] companies, are facing massive change, so they are taking traditional ad dollars out. And some of the new brands that are coming in and disrupting are not advertisers. It’s a massive structural change that’s producing fragmented spending — probably too much so.”

“That blue sweater ad you click on today is going to follow you around the Internet until you die.” - Antonio Lucio, HP
Purpose marketing and overall brand honesty were repeated themes. “What you hear resonating here is brand safety and transparency,” said David Selby, president of Chicago agency SCC, with clients including the Cubs, Friendly’s and Johnson & Johnson. “Honesty and transparency with your consumers is being rewarded like never before.”

Added Maurice Herrera, Weight Watchers senior vice president and head of marketing: “One of my favorite sayings is, ‘It’s not about the stimulus, it’s about the response.’ The cheese has moved. We’ve just got to be humble and agile enough to move with it.”

FACE-ING THE FUTURE: A compendium of intriguing data points from Facebook’s Sarah Personette had the audience energetically scribbling during her luncheon speech. Facebook’s head of global business marketing noted that while it took TV 14 years to reach a domestic audience of 50 million, the internet took just four years, and it took two years for mobile devices to achieve that same milestone. Now, she said, 5 billion mobile subscriptions around the world are tied into more than 2.3 billion smartphones.

Among her “20 Shifts for 2020” forecast:

Mobile video will dominate, if it doesn’t already. In 2011, less than 1 percent of all video viewed was on mobile devices; by 2014, it was up to 38 percent; by the end of 2016, it was up to more than 50 percent.

Omnicultural identities are on the rise and gender lines are blurring. “We can no longer rely on traditional definitions of sex or what is sexy,” she said. “Are we marketing to the customers we think we have or customers we actually have?”

Aging is archaic. “As people live longer, healthier, more fulfilled lives, the concept of retirement is becoming obsolete,” she said.

Phone calls are so 20th century. “Across every demographic group, phone calls are declining as messaging apps are on the rise,” she said. “By 2020, 80 percent of the connected world will be using messaging apps and using them to interact with businesses for hours, location and inventory search. … So, can your messaging app be a one-stop shop?”

Online, convenience is beginning to beat price. “People will absolutely make their [online] purchase decisions based on convenience, even if the deal is good,” she said, while encouraging markets to remove as many clicks possible between “buy” and “checkout.”

> ANALYTICAL ACES: NASCAR was named of as one of three winners of the ANA Genius Awards for innovation in advanced marketing analytics. NASCAR was cited for championing analytics across its organization and achieving “widespread adoption of cross-consumption reporting and analysis to reach current and potential consumers where they consume media.” Winners receive a $100,000 donation to their charity of choice; in this case it will go to the NASCAR Foundation.

Adobe and IBM were the other honorees.

Terry Lefton can be reached at

D.C. United players Luciano Acosta, Lloyd Sam and Steven Birnbaum and members of the Screaming Eagles supporters group (Mitchell & Ness).
Courtesy of: MLS (3)
While at a wedding in Mexico, Denver-based clothing company and boutique Jiberish co-founder Pete Drago was introduced to an MLS employee by his wife. Aware of the league’s work with several brands he’s familiar with — and knowing that Colorado Rapids players shopped at his store — he commented over drinks that he’d be interested in working on a project together, an idea he thought wouldn’t go further than the bottom of that glass.

Returning to work on Monday, he got an email from MLS. Soon afterward, he found himself in conversations with the league’s licensing team, and then in a design process with the Rapids. The collaboration culminated in an 11-piece collection released earlier this season.

“To see this level of awareness about what is going on in the fashion world from a large organization like MLS is really cool,” Drago said.

This “capsule collection,” as the league calls it, is one of 19 between brands and the league’s clubs since 2013 and is part of MLS’s effort to reach new fans through fashion.

“It helps create noise and buzz in the markets, and gives the clubs and players another opportunity to talk about a side of themselves, potentially with a certain audience that may not be part of their fold at the moment,” said Maribeth Towers, MLS senior vice president of consumer products.

Stefan Frei of the Seattle Sounders (Reigning Champ).
For Sporting Kansas City, which released the league’s latest collection last month with soccer streetwear brand Live Breathe Futbol, fashion has been a key piece of its marketing messaging, especially as it competes with the local NFL and MLB teams.

“In a competitive sports marketplace here in Kansas City, making really relevant statements about fashion has been something that has helped us penetrate into the culture,” said John Moncke, Sporting Kansas City vice president of stadium and brand revenue. “Having stylish, fashionable products as opposed to some other licensed merchandise is one of the things that has helped make us successful.”

By their nature, capsule collections are limited runs of just a small number of products, usually featuring unique designs or fabrics not often seen in other branded merchandise. Towers said that while that limits the revenue opportunity for the clubs, it does not hamper the intended effect.

“It’s more about the halo effect for both parties in terms of brand messaging and brand equity,” she said.

Brendan Hannan, LA Galaxy vice president of marketing, communications and digital, said the two collections that the club has done further builds upon its efforts to permeate the fashion and art subcultures in the city. “Working with brands that have appeal within your local community and to a bigger national audience can only open more doors for your brand,” he said. “To be able to reach the pop culture audience that are on blogs like HypeBeast and Highsnobiety gives us another way to differentiate ourselves and tell a story.”

Towers said that because the agreements are solely for a single collection of limited items, MLS has not had any issue forging the agreements, which are also quite common in the fashion industry. Typically, the clubs and the brands will split the revenue from the collection, each offering half of the line at their individual retail channels, often a team store at the stadium and in the retailer’s brick-and-mortar location.

Gerso Fernandes of Sporting Kansas City (Live Breathe Futbol).
Towers said that while Adidas, the league’s official apparel provider, had “perhaps a little trepidation” as the league moved more into this area, it quickly understood the hyperlocal branding exercise, especially as MLS clubs worked with brands Adidas itself had done capsule collections with. Those include Reigning Champ, which the league now does an annual collection with around the previous year’s MLS Cup winner.

Fourteen of the league’s 22 teams have now done at least one collection, and Towers said MLS’s goal is to have all teams have at least one, as well as expand into other product categories. Typically, the collections have centered on T-shirts, sweatshirts and hats.

It also allows the clubs and leagues to take a different approach to marketing, giving them the opportunity to create lookbooks and host invite-only launch parties. Players have also gotten more involved in these collections, ranging from posing in promotional images to designing some of the pieces themselves. NYCFC defender Ethan White photographed all of the images for the club’s collection with Mitchell & Ness.

Drago said the gradual blending of athletics and fashion that has helped fuel trends like streetwear and athleisure has aided Jiberish’s collaboration with the Rapids. More leagues and teams are paying attention to the trend.

“The day after the collection launched, we got a message from another one of Denver’s teams who said, ‘We have to do something like this with you too,’” he said. “The reach that fashion can provide sports is something it seems everyone is becoming aware of.”

Looking to put a consistent brand personality on what’s been a disparate set of consulting offerings around the world, Lagardère is consolidating them under a new Lagardère Plus brand.

Additionally, Lagardère has acquired Brave, a London-based creative agency, with clients including Amazon Prime, Brown-Forman, Greenpeace and Panasonic.

The Lagardère Plus brand incorporates Lagardère Sports and Entertainment’s consulting businesses and adds akzio! and Zaechel International in Germany, and Sponsorship 360 in France — along with new strategic, creative, digital and analytics capabilities.

That adds to seven agencies and more than 300 employees globally.

The purpose, said Lagardère North America President and CEO Andy Pierce, is to have a more unified offering to compete with the likes of Momentum Worldwide, Octagon and IMG, and to have sports, entertainment and sponsorship marketing of all types housed in one group.

“We aspire to be the global solution for global brands, so this is a big step in that direction,” Pierce said.

Lagardère Plus will be led by its global consulting team: Pierce, global president; Jonathan Isaac, chief strategy officer; Kern Egan, president, Americas; Tim Frith, head of consulting in the U.K.; Hervé Bodinier, executive general manager in France; Olaf Bauer, managing director in Germany; and Malcolm Thorpe, vice president of business development in Singapore.

Capital One took over naming rights of the former Verizon Center in August for a reported $10 million annually over 10 years.
From embarrassing to jaw-dropping, the Capital One Arena’s naming-rights history is one of extremes.

The Washington, D.C., arena, home to the NHL Capitals and NBA Wizards, opened in 1997 with what many considered the worst U.S. naming-rights deal ever: a $77 million construction loan to former Caps and Wizards owner Abe Pollin, which also granted title rights to MCI without any additional fees. Without it, the arena may never have been built, but as naming-rights fees accelerated over the next two decades, the deal became a bit of an embarrassment, given the size and wealth of the D.C. market.

Then there’s the other extreme:

In a national market with an abundance of stadium and arena naming rights, as well as an oversupply of venues looking to sell their names for a second time, Monumental Sports & Entertainment established a U.S. benchmark — bringing in a reported $10 million a year over 10 years from Capital One in a deal announced in August.

In 20 years, naming rights for the Chinatown arena progressed from the ridiculous to the sublime.

“We could only do better,” said a senior executive at Monumental Sports, which owns the Caps, Wizards and the arena in which they play, “because we weren’t getting anything before.”

While there are several reasons Capital One bought the deal, the principal rationale was the same that compelled FedEx to put its name on the Redskins’ home field 18 years earlier — the significance of the D.C. market.

What's in a name?
Monikers for the Wizards’ and Capitals’ arena
  MCI Center (1997-2006)
  Verizon Center (2006-17)
  Capital One Arena (2017)
“We’re a mile from Capitol Hill, and a mile from the key departments that run this country,” said Jim Van Stone, Monumental president of business operations and chief commercial officer. “There’s considerable affluence, so we’ve got a great [business-to-consumer] market here, but we also have the [business-to-government] side, which makes it unique.”

Another motivating force was waving the community flag, which is almost always a factor in naming rights. Capital One is building its corporate headquarters just west of downtown D.C., in Tysons, Va.

Topping off the deal is a shared belief in technology as a panacea.

“A lot of our owners, especially [Monumental majority owner] Ted Leonsis, came from tech,” Van Stone said. “So technology became a focus of the deal as something that could drive customer loyalty and fan experience.”

It was a bond shared by Monumental and Capital One from the start.

“You had two consumer-focused companies — each with a huge number of technologists,” said Adam Heintz, Monumental vice president, business intelligence. “The more we talked, the more we saw there were amazingly cool things we could do. At its simplest, it’s taking their database and ours and seeing how we can build a better fan experience, more accounts and more business.”

Going to market

Around mid-2015, Van Stone and other Monumental marketers started planning to take the arena’s naming rights to market. The MCI/Verizon deal was set to expire at the end of 2018. Monumental hired two agencies to assist. MP & Silva was to offer sales packaging advice and prospect among foreign companies. The idea was to find a brand seeking political influence in the U.S., following the Barclays Center blueprint in Brooklyn.

Horizon Media’s Scout Sports & Entertainment assisted Monumental with analytics and developing an out-of-home ad strategy, along with packaging and evaluating media associated with the sponsorship. Employing two sales agencies was not a typical strategy, but “we were looking for a new approach and Scout helped us think about our value in new ways,” Van Stone said.

Capital One Arena.
As is usually the case in title sponsorship deals, Monumental first went to its biggest incumbent sponsors. Capital One’s spend with Monumental was large enough that it was already presenting sponsor of the season for both the Caps and Wizards.

As competition in retail banking and credit cards intensified, so had Capital One’s sports media spend. According to a SportsBusiness Journal analysis of data over the past three years, Capital One’s budget on sports media skyrocketed from 26 percent of its overall media budget to 54 percent of its overall $255.4 million annual measured media spend from Oct. 1, 2016 to Sept. 30, 2017.

Clearly this was a brand already sold on sports as a marketing platform. Still, “it wasn’t a one-horse race right from the beginning,” said a source familiar with the negotiations. Other brands involved in early discussions included Leidos, a Virginia-based defense contractor, and UPS, which would have presented an interesting foil to FedEx’s naming of the Redskins’ home field, which is 13 miles from the arena.

Another reason Capital One was an early target is the cozy relationship between Leonsis and Richard Fairbank, Capital One’s founder, chairman and CEO, who’s a partner in Monumental. Van Stone and others insisted that Fairbank was not involved in the deal.

The Dealmakers
  Marc Mentry, senior vice president, brand marketing
  Roger Ferguson, vice president, brand advertising and sponsorships
  Byron Daub, head of sponsorships and experiential marketing
   ■ Amit Desai, director, brand sponsorships and experiential marketing

    Jim Van Stone, president of business operations and chief commercial officer
    Patrick Duffy, senior vice president, global partnerships
    Adam Heintz, vice president, business intelligence
    Lee Stacey, vice president, corporate partnerships

Capital One refused to make anyone involved in negotiating the deal available for an interview.

While an early sales plan had Monumental selling everything in its portfolio: Wizards patch, naming rights and a sponsorship across every team for $12 million or more, that went by the wayside. (The Wizards’ uniform ad patch was still available at press time.) In March, when Van Stone met one-on-one with Amit Desai, Capital One director of brand sponsorships and experiential marketing, at the company’s current headquarters in McLean, Va., the pitch was solely naming rights.

Negotiations moved relatively smoothly, with Capital One adding payment-card exclusivity to its exclusive banking rights.

“I don’t recall any real [deal-breaker] demands,” Heintz said. “It was more about getting the right mix: satisfying the people responsible for mortgages at the same time we were providing enough for those selling credit cards.”

Capital One made an initial offer in April. Monumental officials weren’t confident that they had an agreement until an hourlong conference call June 22, when Van Stone, Patrick Duffy, Monumental’s senior vice president of global partnerships, and Heintz were in Las Vegas for the annual NHL Awards show. Heintz recalled that the call began at 6:30 a.m. Vegas time. “The conversation turned to more substantive things — what we could do to activate,” he said. “Once we were having those discussions, we felt really good.”

A deal in principle was reached in July, followed by a final month of back and forth on details, until the agreement was completed and announced in early August.

One of the most problematic parts of the naming rights was getting Verizon to agree to an early buyout. Those negotiations took more than a year. Verizon is remaining in the building as a sponsor of the Wizards — a deal that complements the telecom brand’s NBA league sponsorship.

Second time around

For the industry, the larger issue is one of selling naming rights multiple times. Outside of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment’s stunning recent 20-year deal, valued at $639 million, with Scotiabank for naming rights at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, there is no comparison. And considering that industry experts do not consider Toronto’s deal analogous to any U.S. deal, the yield in D.C. is a new standard for an arena.

“Considering all the assets Monumental had to sell, I always thought it would be a good number and it was,” said Rob Yowell of Gemini Sports, which assisted Scout in early evaluation and strategy on the deal.

So, any advice for other properties facing the same issue of showing value in an older building?

“It gets back to the location — and your four walls,” said Van Stone, noting $40 million in planned improvements, which will include a new point-of-sale system through which Capital One cardholders will receive discounts on food, beverages and merchandise in the arena.

“There’s a shifting landscape in naming rights,” said Michael Neuman, Scout Sports & Entertainment executive vice president and managing partner. “When it’s a second or third [venue] entitlement, teams need to think more holistically about what they are selling. It becomes more about delivering a better fan experience.”

Even with the NHL season underway and the NBA season approaching, Van Stone said he and his sales team have yet to have an official congratulatory meal with Capital One executives.

Over the past year, Monumental Sports also has signed a regional broadcast deal with Comcast, rolled out its first over-the-top network, launched two Arena Football League teams and cemented deals for food and beverage, merchandise and ticketing — putting the overall value of its recent deals at $1.6 billion. Additionally, earlier this month Laurene Powell Jobs, the billionaire widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs, became the company’s second-largest owner, after Leonsis.

So if they ever get around to having that party, it should be a Monumental celebration.

With as peculiar an original naming-rights deal as Monumental Sports inherited, naturally there were some odd twists along the way.

Verizon bought what was left of a bankrupt MCI, which held the arena’s original rights, for $6.7 billion in 2005. Shortly thereafter, Monumental senior executives contacted Verizon to let the company know that its purchase included MCI’s arena naming rights.

Verizon’s response at the time to owning the rights: “We do?”

Nonetheless, the company put its moniker on the arena, starting in 2006. Since the original MCI deal only covered business communications, additional fees were required for other categories, as well as various promotional and marketing campaigns, sources said. Therefore, Verizon’s sponsor support at the arena often was inconsistent.

So through the years a number of competing telecom brands cut sponsorship deals with teams that called the arena home. That resulted in some unusual conflicts, like the WNBA Mystics being sponsored by Sprint’s Boost Mobile brand and playing in jerseys with a Boost Mobile logo on them — on a court bearing Verizon’s logo. The Wizards, sponsored by T-Mobile’s budget MetroPCS brand, also played on a Verizon-logoed home court.

— Terry Lefton

The NBA’s 2017-18 season begins Tuesday with many of the league’s partners activating heavily around the tipoff.

Kia, which signed a multiyear renewal with the NBA this offseason, again is the title partner of Kia NBA Tip-Off and will continue as sponsor of the Kia NBA Performance Awards and Kia NBA All-Star MVP award. The company again will sponsor a seasonlong sweepstakes on NBA social channels.

Nike, which begins its first year as official outfitter of the NBA, will launch a marketing campaign with its key endorsers, including LeBron James and Kevin Durant, with the first spot to debut on opening night.

Other activations include:

American Express, which will launch a benefit program for card members. American Express is the presenting partner of the “NBA on TNT Road Show” and will continue its presenting sponsorship of the “NBA on TNT” and the “American Express Halftime Report.”

Jack Daniel’s, which begins its second season as a league sponsor, will create an online digital sweepstakes giving two fans the chance to win an all-expenses-paid trip to NBA All-Star 2018 in Los Angeles. Jack Daniel’s will also unveil NBA-themed product displays at retail locations.

 2K’s “NBA 2K18” video game this year features Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving on its cover, and Shaquille O’Neal on the cover of the “NBA 2K18 Legend Edition.” 2K and the NBA also continue to develop the NBA 2K League, which will launch in 2018.

The Boston Celtics’ Kyrie Irving is on the cover of the “NBA 2K18” video game.
EA’s “NBA Live 18” features Houston Rockets star James Harden on the cover, and features WNBA players and teams for the first time.

PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay Ruffles brand is running a “4-Pointer” program in conjunction with “NBA 2K18” through Dec. 15. A special code on co-branded bags of Ruffles chips gives fans access to a custom 2K game mode where they can score with a 4-point line and earn four times the virtual currency from the game. Fans can also enter to win prizes such as game tickets, NBA Store gift cards, and electronic merchandise.

Tissot is creating three “Buzzer Beater” videos clips around Eric Bledsoe and Tyler Ulis of the Phoenix Suns, and free agent Randy Foye. Tissot interviewed the players about their buzzer beater shots from last season. Foye played for the Brooklyn Nets last season. Tissot will launch six additional team watches at the start of the season in the U.S.

Under Armour will launch its new NBA draft combine product line around Kia NBA Tip-Off. The company will also launch its Curry 4 shoe at the start of the season. The Jr. NBA Week Presented by Under Armour program was set to run from Oct. 9-16 with youth clinics and events hosted by all 30 NBA teams.

’47 Brand begins its first full season with the NBA as it rolls out team fan apparel and headwear.

This season teams are allowed to have as many as five jersey looks.
Courtesy of: NIKE
While Nike’s new eight-year on-court apparel deal is the biggest news among NBA licensees, it’s not the only noteworthy development.

Nike’s new NBA jerseys debuted at retail Oct. 12. Bringing on Nike as the master licensee catalyzed a reshuffle among the NBA’s other apparel licensees. So, along with Nike supplying on-court togs, including “authentic” on-court jerseys ($250) and the “Swingman” ($110), Fanatics’ new rights allow it to sell “Fast Break” replica NBA jerseys for $70, which is a new low price point for the product.

’47 Brand also has expanded apparel rights. Mitchell & Ness, sold last year by Adidas to a company headed by former Nike marketer Kevin Wulff, now has headwear and apparel exclusivity within the retro “Hardwood Classics” line.

“In our first year post-Adidas, we have re-engineered, in large part, a lot of our apparel business,” said longtime NBA consumer products chief Sal LaRocca. “Our entire apparel category will look very different.”

Merchandise tied to the Warriors lead sales at Fanatics.
While Minnesota’s redesigned uniform has generated buzz at retail, there should be a lot of choice. Each team is allowed to have four different jersey looks, and a fifth, under the Hardwood Classics line, if it so chooses.

“Most teams will have four different [authentic] jerseys; the question is, how often they will wear them” on court, LaRocca said.

As is the case with its footwear, domestic retail distribution for Nike’s NBA-licensed products will be smaller than Adidas’ was. However, outside the U.S., Nike’s NBA-licensed apparel will have a larger retail presence than Adidas.

LaRocca said he expects sales of Nike’s NBA apparel to be about 60 percent domestic. He sees more of the NBA’s total licensing revenue coming from overseas. They have been 65 percent domestic, 35 percent offshore, for a few years. By the end of this season, LaRocca sees that split changing to 60/40.

Top NBA sellers
   Across Fanatics’ sites from July 1 to Oct. 10

Top Teams
  1. Golden State Warriors
  2. Cleveland Cavaliers
  3. Los Angeles Lakers
  4. Boston Celtics
  5. Chicago Bulls

Top Players
  1. Steph Curry (Warriors)
  2. LeBron James (Cavaliers)
  3. Kyrie Irving (Celtics)
  4. Kevin Durant (Warriors)
  5. Russell Westbrook (Thunder)
  Source: Fanatics

NBA consumer product sales have grown by double-digits over the past several years. LaRocca sees that pace continuing through this season, paced by Nike’s new apparel, video games (the league’s biggest consumer product category) and continued growth in China, the league’s second-biggest market.

Trending teams include the Boston Celtics, who added Kyrie Irving; Minnesota, a tribute to its uniform redesign; Oklahoma City, which added forward Paul George; the L.A. Lakers; and Golden State and Cleveland, which have competed in the last three NBA Finals.

Hot rookies include the Lakers’ Lonzo Ball, the only new player ranked among top players in jersey sales.

With the NBA season starting this week, the league has renewed many of its pending sponsorships. Back in the fold are longtime NBA sponsors Kia and American Express, Gatorade,, Kaiser Permanente and SAP. Taco Bell has not yet renewed, but a league spokeswoman said those negotiations are in “late stages.”

BBVA, a banking category sponsor since 2010, did not renew, after a change in ownership. Sal LaRocca, NBA global partnerships president, pointed out the various financial services and brands supporting league media rights holders, along with the banks competing with the likes of AmEx, a longtime NBA corporate patron.

Meanwhile, a reorganization promoted by the departures earlier this year of Rachel Jacobson, former senior vice president of global partnerships, and Emilio Collins, former executive vice president of global partnerships, sees the NBA’s sponsorship department united with media — where it was many years ago.

Kerry Tatlock, senior vice president of global marketing partnerships, continues to manage and renew corporate sponsorships, but the entire new business team has been merged with the media team, headed by Dan Rossomondo, senior vice president of global media, business development and partnerships solutions.

“Our media platforms and programs are focal points of how sponsors want to activate with us, so we’ve merged those teams,” LaRocca said. Both Rossomondo and Tatlock report to LaRocca.

— Terry Lefton