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Volume 22 No. 39

Research and Ratings

Shaq and Adam Schefter sit atop sports media’s social media rankings, according to data from MVPindex measured through Oct. 4. MVPindex is a social media valuation for the sports and entertainment industries, offering real-time analytics on more than 90,000 athletes, entertainers, teams, leagues and brands across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and YouTube.

Sixty percent of NBA fans correctly identified Gatorade as the league’s official sports drink, the highest recognition rate any NBA partner has received in the 12-year history of the annual Sponsor Breakthrough survey conducted for Sports Business Journal by Turnkey Intelligence.


The brand spent an estimated $10.4 million during NBA telecasts last season, an increase of 13 percent compared to the previous season, according to Gatorade is the league’s most-tenured partner, with an official relationship that dates back to 1984. Other notable takeaways from the data:


Recognition Compared To 2017

+9% Points: Anheuser-Busch InBev — AB-InBev's highest NBA recognition ever.

+3% Points: American Express — A sponsor since 2010, this year’s survey was its best yet.

-5% Points: Pepsi — The return of Uncle Drew couldn’t stop Pepsi’s decline.

-6% Points: Kia — A speed bump after four straight years of improved recognition.

State Farm, a league sponsor since 2010, saw its awareness level increase for the fifth straight year.


Although it has been nine years since Taco Bell ended McDonald’s 20-year tenure as the league’s official quick-service restaurant, fans are still more likely to associate the golden arches with the NBA. However, Taco Bell closed the gap during the past year, gaining three percentage points, while McDonald’s lost four.

Ad effectiveness

Turnkey draws from its database of more than 20,000 sports fans to analyze the impact of creative spots running on NBA programming.


Budweiser, “Mother’s Day Tribute: This Bud’s for the Real MVP”
Grade: 8 (good)

The spot featuring the mothers of recent NBA MVPs successfully tugged on viewers’ heartstrings and scored significantly above normal levels for both “enjoyment” and “distinctiveness,” according to Turnkey. The VaynerMedia-created ad showcased an effective blend of NBA imagery and emotion.


Hulu, “TNT: The Real Announcers of Studio J: Always Late”
Grade: 8 (good)

Kenny Smith is late to record an “Inside the NBA” segment, so Ernie Johnson sends Shaq, then Charles Barkley, to look for him. They are backstage watching Hulu, leaving Ernie alone on the set. The spot scored high in “enjoyment” as well “integrated branding.”

Since 2007, Turnkey Intelligence has been benchmarking detailed sponsor performance and breakthrough metrics for Sports Business Journal across Major League Baseball, the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLS, NASCAR, PGA Tour and NCAA. Presented here are the brands, per category, that were most likely to be selected in this year’s NBA study.

The NBA is the professional sports league with all of its engines firing in a positive way.

The NBA has currently found its own marketing brand positioning as young, relevant, socially responsible, sensitive and appealing to a diverse population, and it has players who are part of pop culture. The league has built a brand that clearly has an allure to sponsors looking to benefit from the NBA’s positive image. The league has worked hard to build this image, through constant communication with its current fans and an eye toward what its future fan looks like.

In the research we conducted, Turnkey Intel saw that almost all official NBA league sponsors enjoyed growth in brand awareness year-over-year. American Express, Budweiser and Bud Light saw positive results with the consumer and their association as a sponsor of the NBA.

When we look at sponsor awareness, we need to appreciate and give credit to all the smart marketing programs that these brands put behind their sponsorship, not only at the league level but with broadcast support and individual team deals.

American Express created a holistic campaign, leveraging its “Don’t NBA Without It” commercials along with a strong title sponsorship around the All-Star Game on TNT.

Budweiser and Bud Light enhanced their voice and reach with double-digit team sponsorship deals in addition to their league deal, amplifying their social share of voice on a national level. Their Mother’s Day NBA tribute commercial garnered a great deal of attention for the brands and resonated well with the consumer.

As marketers, we don’t always know when, where and how the consumer interacts with our sponsorships, but what we do know is if we fully integrate our association and use fun and relevant communication, our message does penetrate through the noise and moves the needle.