Branding the World of Sports

Posts Tagged ‘NBA’

ESPN will help NBA avoid a lockout

Posted by ZA on January 17, 2011

A good article in Ad Age by sports marketing guru, Rich Thomaselli, about the effects of an NBA lockout.  The article details who has the most to lose if the NBA does have a lockout next season.  There is $1 billion worth of television ad revenue at stake, much of that coming from ESPN.  One of the best points in the article is about how ESPN & Turner will fill open time slots in their TV schedules, if there is a lockout.  Thomaselli points out that ESPN doesn’t have NHL programming to fill open spots like they did during the NBA lockout in 1999.

That surely has got ESPN execs in Bristol nervous about the possibility of this lockout happening.  I mean it’s one thing for them to fill their Monday Night Football time slot if the NFL has a lockout, that is one night a week.  It would be something much greater for ESPN to have to find quality programming to fill multiple days of their week in place of their NBA broadcasts.  ABC would be scrambling as well to fill in holes, which would be especially painful since they just recorded their highest ratings ever for their Christmas Day NBA broadcasts.

So what happens to avert an NBA lockout?  I think the folks at the Worldwide Leader get involved to help negotiations. They will of course say they play no role in league versus labor issues, but they do.  ESPN is a brand maker, they can take a player and make him rich just by giving him the exposure that “Madison Avenue” craves.  So you better believe that ESPN has the ear of the players and their agents.  ESPN also works with the league to set the broadcast schedules and each owner knows the more his team is on TV the higher the value of his franchise climbs.  So in the end, I think ESPN helps the NBA to keep playing without a lockout.

If you are ESPN, it’s good to be the king.

Posted in ESPN, NBA, Sports Television | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

LeBron’s brand is on the line with his NBA decision

Posted by ZA on July 2, 2010

Now is the time for LeBron James.  This is one of those moments that will shape his legacy.  It won’t be “the moment” which will presumably happen the next time(s) he is playing for an NBA Championship.  But his decision this Summer on free agency will set the path for the next stage of his basketball career.  Will King James stay in Cleveland?  Will LeBron jump to the Bulls, Clippers, Heat, Knicks, Nets or other?  No one knows right now, probably not even LeBron.  So for now we are all witnesses to LeBron’s free agency frenzy.

One key aspect of LeBron’s decision that I feel deserves more attention is: how will LeBron’s decision shape his public image?  LeBron is not just a basketball superstar, he is a global brand.  So he, and his team, have to think bigger than basketball in this decision.  They need to think about which option will give him the best chance to win on the court, but they also need to consider what will help promote his brand and how the public will react to his decision.

I think Michael Rosenberg nails the public perception part of this decision in his CNNSI commentary.  Rosenberg’s comparison of LeBron’s decision to those of other sports superstars Shaq and A-Rod is quite shrewd.  Alex Rodriguez went to New York and won a ring, but the public will always see these Yankees teams as Derek Jeter’s team.  If LeBron goes to Miami to play with Dwayne Wade, then he becomes A-Rod to Wade as Jeter.  Rosenberg goes on to detail why James going to Chicago would cause similar issues for how he’s viewed by sports fans.  Rosenberg basically concludes that the best option for LeBron’s brand image is to stay in Cleveland and win.  I agree, and think this is a must read article.

Posted in NBA | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

John Wall signs $25 million deal with Reebok

Posted by ZA on June 10, 2010

John Wall, the University of Kentucky standout, who is likely to be the #1 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft has signed an endorsement deal with Reebok.  The endorsement deal is reported to be a 5-year deal worth approximately $25 million dollars ($5 mil per year).  The deal reported includes two signature shoes that will be designed by Reebok for the young basketball star.

This deal by Reebok is a huge step up from what recent draft picks have received from shoe endorsement deals.  It signals that Reebok plans to make John Wall the centerpiece of their basketball marketing efforts.  In 2009, the top NBA Draft pick, Blake Griffin signed a reported $400,000 per year annual deal with Nike.  In 2008, Chicago Bulls top pick Derrick Rose signed with Adidas (who owns Reebok) for an undisclosed sum that was likely in the $1+ million per season range.  Which means the last deal for a top pick that was on par with Wall’s deal was the $8+ million per year deal that 2008 #2 pick Kevin Durant signed with Nike.

The deal that Durant signed with Nike in ’08 was much larger than the deal that #1 pick Greg Oden received from Nike.  Nike has made Durant one of their top endorsement stars over the past few years, which is a pattern that Reebok is sure to repeat with John Wall.  Reebok’s other top NBA endorsement stars include Allen Iverson, Yao Ming & others.

[Assist: Sports Business Daily]

Posted in Apparel & Shoes, College Basketball, Endorsement Deals, NBA, Sports Marketing | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Portland Trailblazers use marquee opponents to sell tickets

Posted by ZA on November 2, 2009

Interesting that the Portland Trailblazers are using their marquee opponents to sell single game tickets.  On the tickets page of their official team website, the Trailblazers have a section on Upcoming Home Games.  In it they say, “Can’t wait to see guys like Lebron, Shaw, D-Wade and Kobe when they come to town…”  Directly above it they have a photo of Lebron James and Dwayne Wade (see image below).

There is nothing wrong with Portland promoting their opponents to sell more tickets, many teams have used this same technique.  The New Jersey Nets are giving their fans jerseys of the star player on the opposing team.   And there are certainly more people in Oregon who want to see a Blazers game against global icon James, so promoting a name like Lebron creates more awareness.  But I’m surprised a team as good as Portland, with such strong fan support, would want to  promote an opponent just to sell more tickets.

The story that Portland’s marketing department needs to tell is about their own young, exciting, talented squad.  They need to be connecting the fans in Portland with the players on the Trailblazers.  This is no longer the “Jailblazers”; this Portland squad has marketable young stars in Brandon Roy, Lamarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden.  The Portland front office needs their fans to know that Rudy Fernandez’s favorite food is paella and that Jerryd Bayless was born the same year that Bull Durham hit movie theaters (1988).

These days there is no shame for a professional sports team doing whatever it takes to sell more tickets.  The bottom line for most of the teams and leagues is that attendance figures are what they are judged on.  But I hope the Portland Trailblazers don’t overlook their own great story.  More long-term success will come from promoting their own team.

Portland Trailblazers ticket offer

Portland Trailblazers ticket offer

Posted in Attendance Figures, NBA | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Will the NBA learn crisis management from MLB?

Posted by ZA on October 29, 2009

The steroid era in Major League Baseball has forever tainted the game.  Most fans cannot watch an MLB game without wondering who is using performance enhancing drugs.  Some of the best players in the game have been linked to PEDs; Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi and Manny Ramirez.  And baseball’s biggest stars in this era have had the steroid rumors swirl around them, including; Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.  What has MLB done to help this situation?  What has the commissioner done to restore confidence that his players are clean?  Not much.  It seems their official stance is similar to AIG’s; just shut up and hope all of the negative attention goes away.

Now it is the NBA’s turn to defend itself against the rumors that their league is tainted.  These rumors come from a familiar source, former NBA referee Tim Donaghy.  In his new book, Blowing the Whistle, Donaghy tells tales of the NBA refs working on behalf of the league to make games close.  He asserts that he and fellow refs would make side bets that affected how they called the game.  Worse he says that the league would instruct their officials to assist certain teams when a certain team winning was important to the league (sorry Sacramento Kings fans).  Donaghy says a lot of damning stuff in the book; here are some more excerpts posted by Deadspin.

If any of the allegations by Donaghy are true, then the NBA has a huge problem they need to correct.  The question now is how seriously will NBA Commissioner David Stern take these assertions from Donaghy?  Will the league investigate further to see if these stories are true?  Will they address this head-on or just hide and hope it goes away?  A conspiracy theorist might already wonder if the league is punishing their referees by locking them out and using replacement refs to start the 2009-2010 season.  Maybe there is more going on there than the two sides not being able to come to an agreement on a deal.

Back to reality, the NBA has to handle this situation carefully in my opinion.  They don’t want to overreact because there is no proof any of the allegations are true.  Remember that Donaghy is a convicted felon, who ratted out the mobsters he was helping to gamble on games and that Tim is likely broke.  Which are all reasons he might not be the most reliable source and could very easily have embellished details in his book to make some extra cash.

But that’s a dangerous game of chicken to play if the NBA is going to simply say that Donaghy is a liar and not look into this matter further.  Because it would take very little for this situation to escalate.  What would it take to corroborate the stories told by Donaghy in his book?  Just one other referee or player to step forward and validate Donaghy’s stories; then the NBA would have a sh*tstorm of negative media.  This is likely what keeps David Stern up at night; someone coming forward to validate the claims of the NBA’s disgraced former referee.

If I’m Commissioner Stern, I would get on top of this situation now and find out if any of this is true.  That would allow them to quickly correct any wrongdoing they discover and refute anything they find out is not true.  If there is any wrongdoing by the league office or their refs, then they need to apologize to the fans and insure this never happens again.  People will still love the NBA and they’ll respect the game more if they know it’s clean.


Posted in MLB, NBA | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Adidas making another push in NBA

Posted by ZA on October 15, 2009

Adidas trails way behind Nike when it comes to basketball.  Nike has more prominent NBA stars endorsing their product (e.g.- Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant) than Adidas, which has translated into much larger market share for Nike.  Nike has had so much success in the NBA that it even has it’s owned themed basketball shoes, the Jordan Brand.

But Adidas is content to concede the category to Nike and has launched a new campaign to promote the 3 stripes.  The new Adidas campaign is “celebrating basketball as a brotherhood” and features Adidas’ most prominent NBA endorsement stars; Dwight Howard, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Derrick Rose.  Adidas hopes that putting all of their big names together in these segments will outshine any individual endorser that Nike has.  This campaign is an extension of their 2007 “Basketball is a brotherhood” theme.


Top NBA stars that endorse Adidas:
Gilbert Arenas
Chauncey Billups
Tim Duncan
Kevin Garnett
Tracy McGrady
Derrick Rose
Josh Smith

Top NBA endorsers for Nike:
Ray Allen (Jordan Brand)
Carmelo Anthony (Jordan Brand)
Kobe Bryant
Kevin Durant
Blake Griffin (rookie)
Richard Hamilton (Jordan Brand)
Lebron James
Joe Johnson (Jordan Brand)
Chris Paul (Jordan Brand)
Dwayne Wade (Jordan Brand)

Top NBA endorsers for Reebok:

Baron Davis
Allen Iverson
Al Jefferson
Yao Ming

Top NBA endorsers for Converse:
Kirk Hinrich
Elton Brand

Posted in Adidas, Apparel & Shoes, NBA, Nike | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Will Dwight Howard be next big sports pitchman?

Posted by ZA on June 4, 2009

AdAge article on Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard says he is already a “dominant force” in the sports endorsement world.  One of the experts interviewed feels Howard’s endorsement appeal ranks just behind of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.  They cite his youth, charisma and good character as positive attributes that make him attractive to companies looking for someone to endorse their product.

I agree that Howard brings a lot to the table; his personality definitely stands out in the T-mobile commercials he is doing with Wade and Charles Barkley.  But I think some of the opinions in the article that Howard is the next big NBA endorsement star are a bit premature.  Howard needs to win a championship and become the undisputed star on his own team before I’m willing to put him in the top 3 endorsers in the league.

The NBA is full of young stars that are full of charisma (e.g.- Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose), so Howard is not unique in possessing those traits.  At one point experts were saying that Greg Oden would be the next big star endorser in the NBA, and that has not panned out.  So I’m going to take a wait and see approach with Dwight Howard.  If he steps up during the NBA Finals he has a chance to prove himself the main star on his own team and get a ring.  Both of those things happen and I’m comfortable saying that a (endorsement) star is born.  If Kobe Bryant and his Lakers take down Howard, or Howard is not the focal point of his own team’s efforts, then I think he’s not quite ready for the praise heaped on him by some in the AdAge article.

Dwight Howard endorsement deals:
* Adidas
* DC Comics
* McDonald’s
* Milk Processor Board (“Got Milk” campaign)
* T-Mobile
* Vitaminwater (Glaceau)
* Warner Brothers
* Wrigley

Posted in Athletes, Endorsement Deals, Endorsement Profile, NBA | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Fans immune to commercialization in sports?

Posted by ZA on April 22, 2009

Very nice piece by AdAge about the pros & cons of the branding that NBA and their partners have brought into the sport.  Are the sponsorships overkill in some cases?  Sure, they are sometimes pretty blatant but it does not interfere with the action on the court.  And it helps fund the teams, player contracts, fancy arenas and high quality television broadcasts that we all enjoy.  So in my opinion the sponsorships the NBA is doing are a necessary evil.


Do I prefer a game of “G-E-I-C-O” instead of the proper name “H-O-R-S-E”? No, but Geico stepped up to the plate to sponsor the event so they deserve the brand exposure.  I’m sure my casual opinion will not sit well with sports purists, but their indignation doesn’t pay the bills for the NBA, their teams or partners.  I’d rather embrace the quality of the sport (minus the lack of shooting ability in the NBA) than to focus on the brands helping fund it.

Posted in NBA, Sponsorship Deals, Sports Brands, Sports Marketing | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

NBA game to stop at halftime

Posted by ZA on March 26, 2009

That would be weird, wouldn’t it…if NBA teams only played the first half of a game and then quit.

That’s kind of how I view the NBA’s decision on what names they included on their “Latin Night” promotional jerseys.   They only went halfway and then quit. The NBA told the Chicago Bulls to stick with “Los Bulls” rather than go with “Los Toros”, which would have been the proper translation for “The Bulls”.


If “Latin Night” is about honoring the league’s Hispanic fan base, then why not go all the way.  Why not actually a Spanish team name on the front of the jersey?  The current version is not Spanish and it is not English…call it Spanglish, which a lot of people I know speak down here in Texas.  We mix in English words to our conversation when we are trying to speak in Spanish.

The reason the NBA decided to stick with the nonsensical  “Los Bulls” is obviously a brand decision.  I’m sure someone in the league office thought it was a bad idea to completely remove the team nickname.  Probably for fear of alienating some non-Spanish speaking fan in Wheeling, who would flip on WGN and immediately call to complain about “Los TOROS” on the front of his team’s jerseys.

[Bulls fan calling WGN] “This is America.  What is a Toro?  Why is their Spanish on our dang jerseys?  Latin-o night?!? This is America, dammit” [/Bulls fan calling WGN]

Is it a big deal?  No.  It is kind of silly for the NBA to strattle the fence on this?  Absolutely, but what do you expect when we live in such a pc world.

[Assist: Sports Business Daily]

Update: Looks like Houston Rockets forward agrees with me.  His quotes from the Houston Chronicle that came out after I posted the story above.

Posted in NBA, Sports Brands | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Will the NBA & NHL be forced to cut teams?

Posted by ZA on March 24, 2009

There is a saying that “once is chance, twice is coincidence and three times is a pattern.”  If that saying is true, then we will soon see a pattern of conversations about the NBA and NHL being forced to shut down teams due to the economy.  That is because a couple of knowledgeable sports columnists have recently written articles about the dire situation for certain teams due to the current economy.  It is only a matter of time until more of the mainstream sports media begin to harp on this subject.


My initial reaction was surprise at reading in Bill Simmon’s “Welcome to the No Benjamins Association” column that he and his sources guess that between “three and eight” NBA teams will be sold, move to a new city or turn over operations to the league.  I had not thought about this possibility because I naively assumed that all of these owners or ownership groups had sufficient capital to ride out the current economic storm.  But I heard a similar story, confirming what Simmons has heard, when I talked to a friend of mine who works in the front office of a prominent NBA team.  My friend specifically pointed to the Memphis Grizzlies as an example of a team that is riding on fumes and said everyone in the league knows it.

Simmons went on to say in his article that the situation in the NHL is probably worse than the NBA.  Simmons writes that contraction of teams in the NHL is likely, whereas NBA Commissioner David Stern will probably refuse to cut NBA teams, even if he should do it.  Simmons said Stern’s stubborn nature that would probably be the reason the NBA doesn’t eliminate failing teams.  Wow that is a lot to absorb; it’s hard to fathom multiple NHL teams closing up and the possibility of the same in the NBA.


But Bill Simmons makes a compelling case in his column; he mentions the declining attendance, corporations who cannot afford their luxury suites and fans that are choosing to stay home.  Combine those factors with the escalating salaries in the NBA and you start to see a recipe for disaster.  And just when I think I’m starting to get my head around it, then another respected media member comes 0ut with a similar story that adds credibility to the dangerous situation the league’s face.

Darren Rovell, who is master of all things sports and business for CNBC, wrote a column about the trouble owners needing to sell might find in trying to locate a buyer.  He says that some of people who own pro franchises are not nearly as rich today as they were when they bought their club.  That downturn in their net worth may cause some of those owners to be forced to sell their team.

Complicating the matter, says Rovell,  is the fact that the days of debt financing the purchase of a professional sports franchise are done.  That means the only people who have the means to buy a franchise are those with loads of cash; like $300 million dollars or more in liquid assets.  Rovell says at this point that it is probably more feasible for a team to be taken over by their league than sold on the open market right now.

The question then becomes how many teams can the NBA & NHL afford to operate on their own dime?  If the rumblings turn out to be true, and there are a handful of teams in each league that cannot afford to continue on their own, then how can the leagues help them?  The simple answer is that they cannot save them; the NBA and NHL would have to instead shut down some of their teams.

I believe it is beyond theory now, it is going to happen.  The NBA & NHL will have to shutter some of their teams, or make otherwise drastic changes in order to save them.  Fans should get accustomed to this idea now, because it is only a matter of time.

Again, if I had just read it once I might shrug it off as a theory that might not come to fruition.  But this story is out there and being told by people who are “in the know”.  So in my mind it is no longer a matter of “if” the leagues are going to shut down teams, it is “when” they make the decision and how many teams will be affected.

Posted in Improve Attendance, NBA, NHL, Sports Brands, Tickets | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »