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Inside Look at NBA Sponsorships

By: Chris Tulley

The NBA is known for attracting high profile sponsors whether that’s companies directly in the sports world, like Nike, or large companies in the crypto space, like Coinbase. Brands realize the power of sponsorship when it comes to a global league, such as the NBA. A big surprise in the NBA sponsorship space came at the beginning of this 2021-2022 season when a new partner was introduced. Wilson replaced Spalding as the official game ball when Spalding had been with the NBA for the last 38 years. However, Wilson wasn’t the only new NBA sponsor, companies like Coinbase, Google, Caesars Sportsbook, and all entered into the space at the beginning of this season.

According to Forbes, at the start of the 2021-2022 season, the NBA saw an increase in League Pass interest internationally. Countries like Brazil, Australia, and the Philippines have had an increase in viewership, as the NBA continues to grow on a global scale. This allows brands to increase brand awareness not only in North America (where games are played) but all around the world.

For the 2021-2022 season specifically, the NBA saw a massive increase in sponsorship revenue. In fact, sponsorship revenue increased by 13% from the year before. For the 2020-2021 season, the NBA brought in $1.4 billion from sponsorship revenue. Whereas, this past season, the NBA set a league record bringing in $1.6 billion. The question is, why the sudden 13% increase? What made this season different than the year before? The answer is cryptocurrency companies.

Cryptocurrency sponsorships now rank second when it comes to sponsorship categories, only behind the technology sector. IEG’s Global Managing Director, Peter Laatz, is quoted saying “The cryptocurrency category’s sponsorship spending spree is like nothing we’ve ever seen before”. For this past season alone, cryptocurrency brands spent more than $130 million on sponsorship space. To put into perspective how quickly they started spending money, for the 2020-2021 season cryptocurrency companies spent less than $2 million on NBA sponsorship. So, who are the powerhouse brands responsible for all this spending?, Webull, Coinbase, FTX, and Socios make up 92% of the cryptocurrency spending in the NBA. Cryptocurrency is still a relatively new concept compared to the other categories involved in NBA sponsorship, but that hasn’t stopped them from spending wild amounts of money to increase brand awareness and make their presence known.

Even though the cryptocurrency space has skyrocketed this past season, the technology category still leads the way. The other categories who are estimated to spend over $100 million on sponsorships are banks, telecom and merchandise. According to SportsPro Media, top spending companies with annual sponsorship rights of more than $50 million include companies like Nike, Microsoft, AB InBev, Pepsi and AT&T. There are also several companies that stand out as being the most active when it comes to NBA sponsorships. Those companies include Pepsi, State Farm, Toyota, Verizon and Socios. Each of these brands currently are responsible for more than 20 sponsorship deals. NBA sponsorship is only going to continue to grow as the league rises in popularity and grows internationally. Will the cryptocurrency category overtake technology as the number one category sponsor? Only time will tell as we continue to monitor these brand’s spending and marketing initiatives.

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