BLOG | by Lance Fraenkel

NBA sponsor patches – do they work and is there a play-off bump?

As the NBA playoffs head to their climax, we thought it would be a good time to take a look at how, in their inaugural year, some of the league’s jersey sponsorships were working out.

All but ten of the 30 NBA teams have sported a sponsor patch this season (see our table below), but at just 2.5 inches square the spots aren’t as conspicuous as uniform sponsorships in other sports, so we were interested to look at the effects.

Back in October, when we looked at how perception of Goodyear’s brand was being affected by the company’s sponsorship of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the picture was promising. Impression of Goodyear in the early part of the season was up amongst basketball fans, outstripping the brand’s performance amongst the general public.

But initial impact is one thing – season-long perception is another. Yet as you can see from the chart below, during the regular season – from October to April – each of the brands we looked at from a sample group of seven enjoyed a season-long Impression premium amongst NBA fans. That means that basketball watchers were more likely to have a favourable impression of each brand than the general public.

But now that the play-offs are into full swing, and the basketball-viewing public is concentrated on fewer teams playing fewer games, is there an additional effect?

We took a look at the same metric – Impression – for Goodyear since the Cavs began their play-off games and this is what we saw. There’s a distinct uplift for the tire-maker over the course of the last few weeks.

What of sponsors of other play-off teams? A quick look at the same metric for 76ers sponsor, StubHub, shows a similar effect nationally amongst NBA supporters but also a striking influence on the local population (ie Philadelphians who are not necessarily basketball fans – see below). Impression for StubHub has spiked amongst this audience since the partnership began, showing the ability of sponsorship to permeate into non-sports audiences.

Compare that to a brand like SquareSpace, jersey sponsors of a team that didn’t make it to the play-offs – the Knicks. Certainly there is no sign of NBA fans currently being consistently more pre-disposed to the brand than the general public are. However, the opposite was the case more or less until the end of the regular season – the brand was scoring significantly more highly for Impression amongst NBA fans than it was for the general public right through March.

So in summary, whilst sponsors should be seeing positive effects throughout the regular season (Impression is just one of the 16 metrics we track daily), it looks like the playoffs can provide a magnifying effect. That makes sense because the patches get more air-time, both because of the lower total number of games played at this point in the season and because of the increased highlights and news coverage those games receive. There is also the effect of there being fewer sponsors to notice at this point in the season, which may lead to those that remain getting a bigger boost.

If I were a brand right now, I’d be making a call to the only team left in the playoffs without a sponsor – the Rockets – and finding out exactly how much it would cost me to grab that patch on a per game basis.

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Lance joined SMG Insight in 2017 as Vice President for North America. Having previously worked for YouGov, Lance has over ten years’ experience in the market research products industry, beginning as an analyst within the consumer division and advancing to the role of Head of Client Management for North America. Lance has successfully developed talent and led large cross-functional teams, consulting with a broad range of clients including Google, NBC, VISA, Bank of America, Omnicom Media Group and Twitter. Lance is a graduate of New York’s Cornell University.



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