New ways to activate key as NBA restarts season
The NBA has rewritten its playbook to find ways for sponsors to activate around its restart, carving out new inventory and working on virtual opportunities to deliver exposure at a time when no fans will be watching from the stands.
When the games begin Thursday, July 30, in the bubble at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex near Orlando, most, if not all, of the NBA’s sponsors will activate in some manner. It’s a critical moment for the league to provide a platform for sponsors that have been without competition to link to since March.
With the league expected to lose upward of 40% of its revenue with no crowds, it is crucial for the NBA and its teams to offer sponsors new revenue-generating programs to make up for the lost exposure and to fulfill contractual obligations. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said the league will look for other revenue-generating opportunities such as putting commercial images on the floor to increase value for sponsors and advertisers.
“Some of it is still a work in progress,” said Kerry Tatlock, senior vice president of global partnerships for the NBA. “Activations will continue to develop. We have leaned on some of our partners operationally. Now we will see it come to light.”
The league already has created new inventory such as digital signage for games at the Disney complex that highlights team naming-rights partners. In addition, the league will have other digital and in-arena signage around the court as added inventory for sponsors.
Michelob Ultra, which replaces Budweiser as the NBA’s official beer, will be presenting partner of the NBA digital fan experience called Michelob Ultra Courtside that will allow fans to appear virtually inside the arena during nationally televised games.
The league’s longest-tenured sponsor in Gatorade is creating individualized player hydration stations at each of the three court facilities at the complex. Gatorade will launch a summer campaign called “Ready to Play,” featuring spots by New Orleans Pelicans rookie sensation Zion Williamson and WNBA Washington Mystics star Elena Delle Donne to be released ahead of the NBA and WNBA season restarts this month.
Sock licensee Stance has expanded its product offering to produce masks that will be provided to all NBA players and personnel on site. Kaiser Permanente will distribute meditation kits to every NBA player that will contain other wellness items including stress balls, resistance bands and information cards with mindfulness tips.
“In addition to health and wellness initiatives, it is thinking about how partners can enhance the player experience in Orlando,” Tatlock said. “It is such an unprecedented situation in Orlando and it will continue to evolve as we go.”
Other activation highlights include AT&T, which has provided company-branded UV phone sanitizers in all player arrival bags. The brand will be the presenting partner of both the Eastern and Western Conference Finals, which will air on ESPN and Turner, respectively, from the Disney complex.
Kia will activate around the end-of-season player performance awards, and the league and car maker will create a custom social media experience for fans to vote for the season Kia NBA MVP. The NBA and Kia will give fans the opportunity via social media platforms to pick which teams they think will win throughout the postseason, as well as a chance to enter a sweepstakes tailored around the postseason.
Nike will roll out a multisport spot featuring endorsers Sue Bird, Megan Rapinoe, Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Colin Kaepernick, Tiger Woods and others to coincide with the NBA restart this week. The spot comes as NBA players will be allowed to wear customized Nike team jerseys with a social justice message of their choosing in place of their last name. Players will also wear Nike warmup shirts displaying “Black Lives Matter” as the league uses the restart to highlight social justice issues.