By Barry Janoff
November 20, 2013: For nearly 20 years, the NBA had a self-imposed limit on advertising and marketing involving hard alcohol, which did not prevent teams from forming deals with companies but involved restrictions on where and how those deals could be marketing to the public.
NBA owners voted in 2009 to loosen those restrictions, which significantly opened up areas for hard alcohol in such high-profile spots as courtside advertising, team Web sites and in-arena promotional efforts. The policy came with a "Drink Responsibly" campaign targeting fans nationwide and, in 2010, a league-wide, multi-platform marketing deal with Bacardi Gold Rum.
Fast-forward to today, with the NBA unveiling a multi-year alliance with Diageo, which makes the global premium drinks company the "exclusive spirits partner "of the league, replacing Bacardi in the category.
Under term of the deal, Diageo brands Ciroc and Crown Royal would be "integrated into marketing initiatives" across the NBA and NBA Development League, and Diageo's Baileys brand would activate across the WNBA.
Financial terms of the pact were not revealed.
As part of its marketing efforts, Diageo plans to provide fans "access to players through unique video content on digital and broadcast channels.
Ciroc Ultra Premium Vodka is unveiling a "The Toast of the NBA" campaign to include musician, producer and businessman Sean "Diddy" Combs, who oversees all branding and marketing for Ciroc.
However, similar to marketing involving beer companies, active players will not be used in marketing campaigns. In addition to avoiding any direct association between hard alcohol and specific players, "[Diageo] does not have any player endorsements at this time," according to the NBA.
"Our brands have the unique privilege of participating in some of life's greatest celebratory moments the world over and what better partner to bring those moments to life than the NBA," Peter McDonough, chief marketing and innovation officer for Diageo, said in a statement. "From the players and competition to fashion, music and night life, the NBA opens the door for us to leave a lasting impression with adult fans in truly innovative and meaningful ways around the game."
Diageo, Crown Royal and Ciroc will have a "significant presence" during national NBA telecasts on ABC, ESPN and TNT, as well as NBA TV and NBA.com. Diageo said it would release NBA-themed TV, and packaging and POP materials at retail.
A weekly series, Reigning Moments of the Week presented by Crown Royal, will air on NBA TV and NBA.com.
The WNBA-Baileys alliance will "showcase inspiring stories from around the league" on WNBA.com. Baileys will also be a gold level partner of the WNBA Inspiring Women Luncheon.
According to Diageo, "Combs and Ciroc Vodka will work closely with the NBA throughout the season on and off the court to elevate key NBA lifestyle events such as NBA All-Star and the NBA playoffs with fun and engaging social media programming, consumer sweepstakes and activations that bring to life what Combs calls the 'Art of Celebration.'"
"I've been a fan of the NBA all my life and am excited to build a greater relationship for Ciroc Vodka with this growing entertainment platform."
In addition, the NBA and Ciroc will produce a series of "drink responsibly" PSAs featuring NBA talent to air across "multiple media platforms" throughout the season.
"I've been a fan of the NBA all my life and am excited to build a greater relationship for Ciroc Vodka with this growing entertainment platform," Combs said in a statement. "Life is filled with moments of celebration and nothing brings people together in celebration quite like sports. With Ciroc I hope to elevate these moments and help champion social responsibility among fans."
"Our new partnership with Diageo and Ciroc Ultra Premium Vodka will elevate celebratory moments around our game and champion responsible decision making," Mark Tatum, the NBA's evp-global marketing partnerships, said in a statement. "We look forward to working with a company like Diageo, which has a long history of finding fun and engaging ways to promote responsibility to adults around the world."
Diageo North America is based in Stamford, CT; parent company Diageo is headquartered in London. Other brands include Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker and Guinness.
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