TV & Streaming

Disney is sold out of ads in the first 2 games of the NBA Finals

Game 3 is likely close behind, one Disney Advertising exec said, though brands were still trying to get in on the early games as of Thursday morning.
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Brian Fluharty/Getty Images

· 4 min read

Much like this year’s conference finals, the NBA Finals are proving to be a blowout.

At least on the advertising side, that is: Disney is sold out of inventory for Games 1 and 2 of the series between the Dallas Mavericks and Boston Celtics, according to Jim Minnich, SVP of revenue and yield management at Disney Advertising. Game 3, meanwhile, is expected to sell out before the end of the day Thursday, when Game 1 tips off, with limited availability in Games 4 and 5, Minnich said.

“The league in general had emerging stars across many, many markets,” Minnich told Marketing Brew. “We believe that for this year, this was the best possible match that we could have gotten. We believe the series will go long. All of those elements, I think, support the advertiser demand.”

With 95 total brands—up 7% year over year—in almost 40 categories, new and returning advertisers have fueled the early-game sellouts from last year’s upfront into the scatter market, Minnich said.

Legacy players: Tech and financial services are popular ad categories in the finals, which is par for the course, according to Minnich.

  • Tech companies advertising in the finals include Adobe, Apple, Dell, Google, Meta, Microsoft, Samsung, and YouTube.
  • Financial services advertisers include American Express, Capital One, Charles Schwab, Chime, and Prudential Financial.

From the alcoholic-beverage category, advertisers include Anheuser-Busch, Bacardi, Diageo, Molson Coors, and Patrón. Automakers like Ford, General Motors, Genesis Motor, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan, and Volkswagen will also have a significant presence.

Rookies: Of the 95 advertisers currently confirmed for the finals, 63 are returning and 32 are new, according to Disney. That’s “double-digit growth in new advertisers year over year,” according to Minnich. Plus, “the majority of [returning] advertisers are increasing their spend in NBA Finals,” he said.

Chime, the Maverick’s jersey-patch sponsor, is one of the new advertisers, along with ESPN Bet. Cosmetics and beauty, furniture, pet supply, and crypto are among the newer categories, Minnich said, with advertisers including Procter & Gamble, Mattress Firm, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, and Coinbase.

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Scatterbrained: Demand for inventory in the scatter market was particularly high this year and “really ramped up” in recent weeks, Minnich said. Conversations about multi-year ad deals that include this year’s finals would have started as early as last January, followed by upfront deals, which together account for most of the ad sales for the playoffs and finals, he said.

But there’s been an “exponential acceleration” in interest over the past week, once the finals matchup was set, he added.

“We’ve had to actually move some folks around to accommodate those new scatter advertisers,” Minnich said. “It’s supply and demand, so that’s why they're paying more of a premium in scatter.”

Scatter buying for the NBA Finals typically heats up in the spring and only gets hotter as the event approaches, he said. Games 1 and 2 sold out earlier this week, but “we had somebody call [Thursday] morning trying to get into Game 1,” Minnich said.

The plot thickens: With ratings for the playoffs down slightly this year compared to last, why the surge of interest in the finals? For one, both conference finals were short, with the Celtics sweeping the Indiana Pacers in four games and the Mavericks knocking out the Minnesota Timberwolves in five. That means some advertiser dollars were freed up for the finals, Minnich said. Boston is also a fairly big market, he pointed out, which could contribute to brand interest.

But the “main driver” of demand, in his eyes, are the storylines playing out as the NBA season comes to a close. From former Celtic Kyrie Irving’s return to Boston with the Mavericks to his teammate Luka Dončić’s intrigue both on and off the court, the finals are sure to draw major audiences and ignite the passion typical of sports fans (especially in Boston).

In other words, what more could an advertiser want?

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