Roundtable Discussion: THE CRAZIEST NBA OFFSEASON EVER AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR SPONSORS
6 minute read
- Thanks in part to marketable personalities, off-season events, and significant roster changes, the NBA dominated social media during its off-season, creating opportunities for sponsors.
- The formation of NBA “super teams” has impacted sponsorship for both the both the league and its teams.
- Due to an intense summer of player movement / transactions, certain NBA stars have seen their marketability impacted.
Following an exciting NBA Finals rematch between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the NBA launched into one of the wildest off-seasons in recent memory. This off-season saw big names like Kyrie Irving, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler, Gordon Hayward, and Isaiah Thomas all move to new markets through free agent signings or blockbuster trades. Following such a wild offseason, MKTG sat-down to discuss the NBA’s ability to remain relevant year-round, off-season implications on sponsorship, and players most likely to see a boost in marketability this upcoming season.
In your opinion, how has the NBA managed to remain relevant year-round?
The league’s schedule has made basketball never stop. The NBA season starts in October and finishes in June. Following NBA playoffs, you have the NBA Draft, Free Agency, the Summer League, and a trade-filled off-season which ensures the conversation never stops for the NBA. Part of its organic, but there is a clearly strategy by the league to deploy offseason programming.
While the NBA has off-season events that generate conversation, I think a large reason the NBA remains relevant year-round is because of the personalities of the NBA’s athletes. The NBA has a collection of marketable personalities like no other league. We’ve seen NBA players highlight their passions outside of the game (e.g. Blake Griffin’s interest in comedy or Russell Westbrook’s interest in fashion). Social media has provided an opportunity to follow these players throughout the year.
I agree that it is the players themselves who are contributing to this trend. This summer, we saw a rise in player workouts / pick-up games featuring NBA players in the summer through formal events like The Drew League, charity showcases and informal pickup games. Players are getting together and putting on their very own all-star games during the off-season. This is compelling content for fans.
What was your favourite NBA storyline this off-season and how has that off-season story had a sponsorship implication to watch for during this upcoming season?
My favourite story was the Kyrie Irving trade saga. By leaving Cleveland, he alienated some local fans but demonstrated that he was driven to succeed outside Lebron’s shadow and create his own legacy. This is a huge opportunity for Kyrie’s sponsors to capitalize on him as the face of the team in a major media market.
My favourite off-season story was Lonzo Ball. I particularly enjoy the Facebook reality-show that was created during the off-season called “Ball in the Family”. Facebook is pushing for original content. I watched the first two episodes and quite enjoyed it. As most of us know, LaVar Ball continually finds ways to insert himself and his family into the media with ridiculous quotes, and this is very much an extension of that. I thought it was a clever partnership and channel to promote Lonzo and LaVar’s two other sons.
This off-season was dominated by a free-agent frenzy and the continuation of the “Super Team” trend where star players are consolidating on a select, few teams. Last year, it was Kevin Durant who left the Thunder to join the already loaded Warriors. This year, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George landed with Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City, creating another team with tremendous star power.
The forming of NBA Super Teams can have an impact on league and team sponsorship efforts. Teams with mass appeal, deep playoff runs, and the most national TV games like the Warriors are getting record-setting sponsorship deals (over $10 million for their jersey patch, record naming rights deal for Chase Center in San Francisco). However, for small-market teams who do not have loaded rosters, they must find another narratives to attract brands. For example, the Milwaukee Bucks, for example, will wear a Harley Davidson jersey patch because there is a hometown connection. They sought out a partner that represented the heritage and backstory of Milwaukee.
Shifting to players, which NBA athletes do you think you experienced a rise in marketability this year?
We will likely see a rise in marketability amongst international players like Joel Embiid and Kristaps Porzingis. Embiid is one of the most active players on social media. Brands would be smart to partner with an athlete who is relevant not only in the U.S., but worldwide.
Joel Embiid will definitely see a rise in marketability. In addition to Embiid, other players from the Philadelphia 76ers will likely see a rise in marketability like Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons. They are a young, and after years of rebuilding, the 76ers finally seem ready to take the next step.
Similarly, another international athlete in the NBA who will likely rise in marketability is Milos Teodosic of the Los Angeles Clippers. He’s a 30-year-old rookie who recently played for CSKA Moscow of the Russian League. The Clippers signed him this past off-season and he’s a flashy point guard. If you’ve seen some of his highlights from the pre-season, he is an incredible player to watch. Los Angeles is an international city, and if he continues to play like he did in the pre-season, there’s no doubt brands will want to partner with him.
This is Andrew Wiggins’ year. Expectations will be high, but the Timberwolves seem poised to make it into the postseason for the first time since 2004. An opportunity to play in the playoffs will allow Wiggins an opportunity to take that next step as one of the league’s most marketable athletes and refresh interest from Canadian sponsors.