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Volume 23 No. 14
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New partner AT&T mobilizes NBA partnership, picks up fans

AT&T was put on the roster in February and NBA fans quickly hung up on Verizon.

According to our 13th annual NBA Sponsor Breakthrough survey conducted for SBJ by Turnkey Intelligence, 27% of respondents correctly identified AT&T as the league’s official wireless sponsor. It was a strong rookie year: Verizon, which held that role the previous three seasons, netted a 29% recognition rate in the previous two surveys.

Recognition compared to 2018

+3% points: Pepsi — Pepsi Center, home to the Denver Nuggets, hosted eight nationally televised playoff games.

-4% points: State Farm — A partner since 2010, this was a drop from 2018’s record high.

-3% points: Taco Bell — The league’s fast-food partner since 2009 is still struggling to top McDonald’s.

+7% points: Uh-oh! — 36% of fans said they couldn’t name the league’s fast-food partner.

AT&T spent $33 million advertising on NBA programming since joining the fold, according to an SBJ analysis of data. More than 90% of that spend came during the playoffs. 

■ Gatorade, an NBA partner since 1984, was the study’s most-recognized partner, as it has been every year since we began tracking the data in 2007, with an awareness level of 55%. However, that was a drop of 5 percentage points from last year’s all-time high. Newcomer BodyArmor picked up 3% in its first survey. The brand counts Kobe Bryant and James Harden as investors, and its mantra of “The More Natural, Better Sports Drink” is a direct shot at its tenured competitors.

■ MGM Resorts became the NBA’s official gaming partner last July and garnered nearly one-quarter of the category’s mindshare, more than double its closest competitor (Hard Rock Casinos). The company has not advertised on NBA telecasts but has been title sponsor of the NBA Summer League since 2017.

Ad effectiveness

Turnkey draws from its database of more than 400 ads to analyze the impact of creative spots running on NBA and other sports programming.

Grade: 6 (FAIR)

The ad featuring the Warriors’ Klay Thompson fell well below norms among NBA fans in terms of likability and branding, according to Turnkey. Despite a reasonable engagement score, Kaiser received better scores from past non-basketball ads.


Grade: 9 (VERY GOOD)

NBA fans reacted very positively to MIB International’s crossover ad featuring Chris Paul alongside actors Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson. In addition to exceeding Turnkey’s norms on all key metrics, more than two-thirds of respondents said the spot made them more likely to see the movie.