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Volume 22 No. 27
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NBA marketing takes the bus to hype playoffs and finals

The league is experimenting with double-decker buses in New York City and Los Angeles that will include sponsor activation.
Photo: nba

The NBA is getting on the bus for the playoffs and finals.

New marketing and fan engagement efforts include, for the first time, NBA Playoffs buses outfitted with fan interactive elements and sponsor activations inside the double-decker vehicles.

The two buses were set to appear in New York and Los Angeles from April 11-14. Activations on the buses included Beats listening stations with team-branded headphones, a live DJ with a Beats-branded station on the upper deck of the bus, a Tissot display case with team-branded watches, an NBA 2K Gaming Lounge, a photo station featuring the Larry O’Brien Trophy, a Gatorade cooler stocked with products, and discounts to the NBA Store. The buses can accommodate up to 30 people at a time.

The league parked a bus at four high-profile locations in New York including in front of the NBA Store on Fifth Avenue, at Madison Square Garden and at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Locations in Los Angeles included L.A. Live and Venice Beach.

“It is a new fan engagement opportunity and integrates partners into that,” said Kerry Tatlock, senior vice president of marketing partnerships for the NBA. “We are going to take a look at how it performs, but it gives fans an opportunity to interact with our partner brands and the game.”

The bus activation was limited to the first weekend of the NBA postseason but may be expanded in the future after the league evaluates the program.

“It is something that is a test and learn,” Tatlock said. “We want to have our partners engage. We will see how it plays out.”

Another new postseason sponsor activation comes from American Express, which will offer cardholders a 32 percent discount at NBAStore.com when any player scores a triple-double in any postseason game. The discount will be offered for 24 hours after the feat.

Another notable marketing effort is an international expansion of the postseason bracket challenge offered on NBA.com. Last year the challenge, which asks fans to predict the winner and length of each playoff series, was offered only in the U.S. and Canada. This season, versions will be offered in 12 international markets. Fans will be awarded various prizes for correct brackets. In the U.S. and Canada, fans can win $1 million for predicting a perfect postseason bracket.

The NBA and Hollywood again are teaming up for movie promotions during the playoffs. Universal Pictures and the NBA have co-branded spots promoting “The Secret Life of Pets 2” during the first round of the playoffs on ESPN and ABC. A deal with Warner Brothers promotes “Godzilla: King of Monsters” during the second round, a deal with Disney promotes the new “Aladdin” film during the Western Conference Finals, and a partnership with Sony Pictures promotes “Men in Black: International” during the Finals.

Other postseason activation includes Kia again serving as title partner of the end-of-season Kia NBA Performance Awards. Rakuten will provide e-commerce offers throughout the playoffs, and YouTube TV will again be the presenting partner of the NBA Finals.