Sports Marketing

With record-breaking season, the NBA stays primed for advertisers

The regular season set an attendance record, while postseason play has delivered more ad impressions compared to last year, according to iSpot.
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High School Musical/Disney via Giphy

3 min read

This year’s NBA season has proven historic before it’s even over. The Denver Nuggets made franchise history by advancing to the finals for the first time, while the Eastern Conference finals between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat turned out to be a nail-biter. Miami ultimately won Game 7 after losing three in a row, and sources told Marketing Brew that Celtics fans are still inconsolable.

Meanwhile, the regular season set an attendance record, with 791 sellouts and arenas filled to 97% capacity, according to the NBA. So perhaps it comes as no surprise that advertisers have their heads in the game.

Viewership: iSpot.TV didn’t share ad spend figures for this year, but said regular season games that aired live nationally on ABC, ESPN, TNT, and NBA TV saw about 29 billion household TV ad impressions.

  • Playoff games airing nationally from the start of the play-in tournament through Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals clocked around 37 billion ad impressions, an increase of 23% over last year.
  • In the first round of the playoffs, the Golden State Warriors’ Game 7 win over the Sacramento Kings on ABC was the most-watched first-round game in the league in 24 years, according to Nielsen, averaging nearly 10 million viewers.
  • ABC saw viewership rise to average 6 million during the NBA playoffs as of last week, a 12% jump year over year, per Nielsen figures cited in MediaPost.

Ad spend: Ahead of the finals, the playoffs brought in about $339 million in national TV ad revenue across networks, according to estimates from EDO Ad EnGage. Revenue was about $360 million last year, when more playoff games were played.

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Postseason advertisers have included Dr. Pimple Popper (to some chagrin) and several movie studios, thanks to a deal between Disney and Universal Pictures, Warner Bros. Discovery, and Sony Pictures.

Sponsorships soar: Team sponsorship revenue reached $1.4 billion this season, a record high and an increase of 10% year over year, according to SponsorUnited. Brands in the finance category spent the most on NBA sponsorships, at $289 million.

Look back: The 2021–2022 NBA regular season marked a major rebound from the Covid-shortened season prior. Ad spending across nationally televised games in the 2021–2022 season was up 114% over the 2020–2021 season, according to iSpot. That’s about $450 million spent on nationally televised games last season, compared to about $210 million in the prior one.

Disney and Turner Sports brought in about $842 million from advertisers including AT&T Wireless, State Farm, Google Pixel, Kia Motors, and Taco Bell during the networks’ coverage of last year’s playoffs, up 19% over 2021’s $705 million and 54% over 2019’s $546 million, per iSpot.

+1: The NBA has been doing some advertising of its own to promote the finals. On May 9, the league rolled out a campaign called “We Are All in the Finals” on its social channels, app, and TV. It is set to Adele’s “Hometown Glory” and features SUGA, Tony Hawk, Jimmy Kimmel, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson.

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