Advertising and Marketing

Media Buyers: NBA Could Get A Bounce

Ad dollars held back by sponsors waiting to see how the NBA recovered will return to the market 2/20/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern

A season that started with concern about
games being missed because of a lockout
has turned into a strong one for the NBA,
helped by strong ratings and, yes, a dose of
Linsanity in New York, media buyers say.

The NBA was in the middle of nowhere
until a settlement with the players’ union
ended the lockout. Still, the cancellation of
games in last year’s fourth quarter, along
with concerns that the labor problem would
let the air out of the season, led some
marketers to take their NBA ad dollars off the
court. (Both Disney, parent of ESPN, and Time
Warner, parent of Turner Broadcasting, said
the lockout hurt fourth-quarter ad revenue.)

“Some [dollars] went to the NCAA, some
went to the NFL,” said Gibbs Haljun, managing
director for media investments at media
agency MEC. “It is relatively easy to replace
GRPs [gross ratings points] in December, and
even to a certain extent in January. It’s a lot
harder to replace those in the playoffs, when
you start coming around to May or June.”

With ratings up despite the lockout
and emerging stars on the court including
Jeremy Lin, Derek Rose of the Chicago
Bulls and Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles
Clippers generating more interest, Haljun
expects that whatever basketball money
was held back by sponsors waiting to see
how the NBA recovered will return to the
market. Prices for spots in the scatter market
are up from last year in the mid-to-high
single-digit range, he said.

Maureen Bosetti, executive VP for
national broadcast at Optimedia, noted that
with ratings up, the networks have a bigger
supply of NBA ratings points to sell during
the remainder of the season, including
the playoffs. She also estimates that ESPN
and ABC, which will air the NBA Finals, are
about 60%-70% sold at this point, which is
normal for this time in the season.

On the other hand, marketers in categories
that buy sports, including autos,
retailers, financial services and the movie
studios, appear to be spending. “They
want to be in those big games and those
big events that people are watching,”
Bosetti said. “I think they’re posed to do
well, but I think they have to be reasonable
in pricing, given that ratings are up.”

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