The rise of international NBA sponsors
The National Basketball Association (NBA) teams have evolved from sporting organisations to fully fledged corporate businesses over the years. With the last decade’s media boom and its exponential rise due to the COVID pandemic, NBA teams have focused on increasing digital revenue streams rather than relying solely on matchday and merchandise sales. As a result, NBA sponsorship revenue has increased by a $1bn. Teams raised $1.6bn in total during the 2021/22 season, a 12% increase over the previous season.
NBA organisations have sponsorship laws that govern how the 32 teams work with companies interested in becoming potential NBA sponsors. To help teams cope with the pandemic’s revenue impact, the NBA has relaxed its stringent rules to provide economic impetus. In addition to the current sponsorship norms, the NBA has now allowed teams to sell new commercial inventory such as advertisement on the court, logo patches on the front of the jersey and having 10 international sponsors (up from three).
Also, the NBA and its teams have now expanded beyond the United States and Canada. NBA games are being broadcast in more countries around the world, opening the opportunity for international NBA sponsors.
NBA teams now have pre-season tours with matches played in countries such as India, Brazil, Australia and the United Kingdom, not only generating audience awareness and brand recognition for the NBA, but also for teams to penetrate untapped markets and increase revenue streams.
The NBA announced a pre-season friendly between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks in Abu Dhabi, the first of its kind in the UAE, just before the start of the 2022/23 season. The NBA preseason began in Saitama, Japan, and included two non-NBA teams, the Adelaide 6ers of the Australian National Basketball League and Maccabi Ra’anana of the Israeli Basketball League. What’s more interesting is that the NBA has also announced regular season games in Mexico City and Paris, which will uplift the game’s global presence.
Examples of International NBA sponsors
Golden State Warriors signed Japanese brand Rakuten as their patch sponsor in a multi-year deal reportedly worth US$20 million a year. According to the company, brand recognition has increased from 23% to 70% in the five years it has been associated with the Golden State Warriors. This year’s NBA Japan Games also drew over 5,000 fans, resulting in record merchandise sales for Rakuten.
Washington Wizards and Recruit Direct Scout, a recruitment platform for highly-skilled workers, strategically built connections and recognition for themselves and Recruit Direct Scout, by creating non-game international language content in Japan and Israel.
To conclude, the future of the sport is rapidly changing due to the NBA sponsors being international rather than just American. With the NBA attracting fans from all over the world, it’s not surprising that its pre-season tours have begun to resemble those of European football teams. Top teams strategically plan games against popular opposition in order to increase fan generation, fan mobilisation and tap into untapped markets through pre-season competitions, which adds a competitive edge for their run-up to the regular season. Essentially, it’s looking like the NBA sponsors will begin to reflect the style of Football sponsors.
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