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Volume 22 No. 32
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Gatorade scores 12-year high for NBA sponsors

League’s official sports drink correctly pegged by 60% of fans. Former partner McDonald’s still outshines Taco Bell, while State Farm continues hot streak.

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.”