NBA Renews Three Big Ad Partnerships

7:54 AM PST 12/12/2011 by Georg Szalai
Don Emmert/Getty Images

Some ad buyers see near-term ad sales challenges for the league, but others highlight its young audience as being attractive for marketers.

NEW YORK - The NBA has renewed three long-term advertising partnerships with Anheuser-Busch InBev, Gatorade and AutoTrader.com, the Wall Street Journal reported.

After resolving a 149-day labor dispute, the league now faces the challenge of rounding up marketers for a shortened new season. The new season starts on Christmas Day with 66 instead of 82 games.

Mark Tatum, the National Basketball Association's executive vp of global marketing partnerships, told the Journal that the league didn't lose one partner because of the lockout. "Clearly, as a result of the schedule there just wasn't much NBA inventory in the fourth quarter," Tatum said. "That inventory went away, but the demand for NBA advertising, from talking to our TV partners, is incredible - people want to be in those Christmas Day games."

The NBA benefits from an attractive audience, but could face some near-term hurdles in terms of ad sales near-term, according to the Journal. "The fourth quarter is slow and many of the big NBA advertisers have already spent their fourth-quarter ad dollars elsewhere," one ad buyer told the paper. And a representative for one major advertiser said it would "certainly not pay full price" for NBA ad time.

The three renewing ad partners said they had no hesitation about renewing their NBA partnerships though, according to the Journal. It highlighted the league's ability to reach young men.

"Sports fan are one of the few groups that still watch TV live," Pam El, vp of marketing for State Farm Mutual Automobile told the Journal. She added that the NBA audience is "more multicultural and younger" than other TV properties.

Still, Clark Wood, chief marketing officer for AutoTrader.com, said "fan sentiment is the unknown" following the lockout. "A concern was that the average Joe was going to get frustrated with billionaires and millionaires fighting over money, but it looks to me it got solved in a very amicable way...I haven't seen anything that tells me fans are irritated, and we're hoping it doesn't develop."

AutoTrader will continue to be the presenting partner of pregame coverage by Time Warner's TNT and NBA TV. Anheuser-Busch will develop NBA-themed advertising and host fan events throughout the year.

Brad Brown, Anheuser-Busch's senior director of sports and entertainment marketing, said  the NBA's new labor agreement, which will make more franchises financially viable, will help the company because teams will have "long-term stability" and will be better positioned for advertisers.

Last year, American companies spent $807.2 million on ads during NBA matches on such networks as Disney's ESPN and TNT, the Journal said.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai

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