By Barry Janoff
October 8, 2015: Last season, LeBron James went back to Cleveland and led the Cavaliers to the Eastern Conference title and NBA Finals, Stephen Curry had an MVP season in helping to drive the Golden State Warriors to the NBA championship and NBA marketing partners opened up their wallets and pocketbooks in record numbers.
Sponsorship spending on the NBA and its 30 teams hit $739 million last season, up from $679 million (8.9%) the previous year, according to the just released IEG Sponsorship Report from research and consulting firm IEG, Chicago.
The figure is also up from $572 million in 2011, $610 million in 2012 and $642 million in 2013.
Anheuser-Busch was the most active sponsor of the NBA, with 81% of NBA-related properties with a sponsor in the malt beverage category reporting a partnership with the company and its brands.
Among the league's most active sponsors last season, Anheuser-Busch was followed by State Farm (74% of NBA properties), Gatorade (68%), adidas (68%), Coca-Cola (55%), MillerCoors (52%), Kia Motors (52%), Spalding (52%), Pepsi (48%) and Geico (42%).
Even with its record figure, the NBA (and all other U.S. sports) trailed the NFL, which had sponsorship revenue in 2014 of $1.15 billion.
MLB sponsorship revenue in 2014 was $695 million and the NHL reached $447 million, according to IEG.
Worldwide sponsorship revenue on motorsports topped $5.3 billion, golf hit $1.65 billion in 2014 and tennis was at $739 million, per IEG.
Insurance overtook automakers to become the most active category sponsoring the NBA. Insurance companies are "five times more likely to sponsor professional basketball than the average of all sponsors," according to IEG.
“The NBA’s growing popularity — particularly in international markets — continues to drive corporate interest in the league and its teams,” William Chipps, IEG Sponsorship Report senior editor, said in a statement.
The NBA signed four new partners during the 2014-2015 season: Harman, Kaiser Permanente, PepsiCo and Under Armour.
Sprint, an NBA partner since 2011, opted not to renew its deal with the league, after already having decided not to extend its alliance with Nascar.
The NBA continues to add to its marketing roster, recently signing Marriott International to a deal that covers games on five continents and this month aligned with Tissot in a multi-year pact to come the global official timekeeper for the league.
“Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the world, and our partnership with the NBA gives us an opportunity to tap into a passionate fan base and communicate the breadth and depth of our portfolio,” Karin Timpone, global marketing officer for Marriott International, said in a statement. “Similar to what we are doing with music and entertainment, our NBA partnership helps us create memorable experiences for our Rewards members and amplify the benefits of the program for both new and loyal guests.”
Nike signed an alliance valued at $1 billion by industry analysts to replace adidas as the league's official apparel partner beginning in 2017-18. Under Armour expanded its deal to become the official title sponsor and apparel supplier beginning in 2018 for the NBA Draft Combine.
"The NBA’s growing popularity — particularly in international markets — continues to drive corporate interest in the league and its teams.”
Insurance companies are "five times more likely to sponsor the NBA than the average of all categories," according to IEG. The leaders also include automotive,, beer, non-alcoholic beverages, banks.credit cards, restaurant/QSR, telecom, lottery and gaming, medical and sports apparel and equipment.
According to the IEG Sponsorship Report, seven franchises had what were called "above average" sponsorship revenue: New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Brooklyn Nets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Chicago Bulls, Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics.
Sixteen franchises had "average" sponsorship revenue, including the Warriors, Cavaliers, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks, Toronto Raptors, Portland Trail Blazers, Washington Wizards, Phoenix Suns, Atlanta Hawks,
Seven teams had "below average" sponsorship revenue: Charlotte Hornets, Denver Nuggets, Philadelphia 76ers, Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves and Sacramento Kings. Of the seven, six had losing records and Milwaukee was 41-41.
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