The first round of the NBA Eastern Conference playoffs on TNT tips off on Sunday afternoon and between 90% and 95% of the TV commercial avails have been sold, although more inventory can open up if series get extended beyond the minimum number of games.
Most of the commercial time was sold in packages that included both the regular season and the playoffs, but Jon Diament, executive VP of Turner Sports ad sales, says some playoff ad packages can still be had, along with scatter advertising in playoff games that are not sold out.
TNT is also selling ad inventory for up to nine first round Eastern Conference playoff games that NBA TV could televise, and is selling digital advertising in conjunction with the playoffs on NBA.com and Bleacher Report. Advertising on those platforms is also part of pre-playoff bought packages.
Turner Sports is coming off record ad sales revenue for its telecast of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship tournament in conjunction with CBS, and Diament believes the interest in both live sports and basketball will draw fans to the NBA playoffs and make marketers happy.
Major regular season NBA advertisers like Samsung, Kia, Sprint, State Farm and Auto Traders have major commitments in the playoffs, along with Budweiser and BBVA. New advertisers in this year’s playoffs on TNT will include Benjamin Moore, Draft Kings, Pizza Hut, Charles Schwab, Apartments.com and CDC. New advertisers on NBA TV’s playoff telecasts will include Bayer, Dr. Scholls, Harman International Industries, Roc Nation, Zales Jewelers, AirBNB and Apartments.com. New NBA.com advertisers for the playoffs will include Unilever’s Degree, Harman, Crown Imports, AT&T and Fan Duel.
Diament says he expects viewership for certain playoff games will be as much as 4 times larger than the regular season game average, depending on the matchups. This season, TNT has averaged 1.7 million viewers per game and last year TNT averaged 4 million viewers for its first round playoff telecasts. One first round Game 7 of the playoffs on TNT drew 6 million viewers.
TNT televised the Western Conference playoffs last season so this year it will carry the Eastern Conference games, with ESPN televising the West, in an alternating coverage pattern that’s part of their TV rights deal with the NBA. With the teams all being different and the matchups different, it is hard to make year-to-year comparisons. TNT’s Western Conference first round playoff coverage last season was up 19% in viewers over its 2013 coverage of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
And of course, storylines can impact viewership, and the Eastern Conference has a good one in LeBron James, who left the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Miami Heat where he won two NBA Championships but this season returned to Cleveland.
Diament believes there will be significant interest from fans on a national basis who will want to either root for or against James in his quest to bring an NBA title to Cleveland.
“We had a big opening week of the season with LeBron and the Cavaliers, so we’re hoping that will happen again in the opening round of the playoffs,” Diament says. “We also had a strong All-Star weekend in New York in February where a lot of marketers activated both on air and on the ground and throughout the city during All-Star weekend. Many of those same sponsors are planning activations beginning the opening week of the playoffs and continuing through the conference finals.”
Diament says many of the All-Star weekend advertisers created custom content for their commercials on TNT’s coverage of the All-Star game and all of its shoulder programming. “I expect there will be a lot of new creative content in commercials during the playoffs too,” he says.
Samsung will return to the playoffs on TNT with its “NBA Style Presented by Samsung Galaxy” campaign. Autotrader returns with its 10th consecutive Drive to the Finals Fantasy Game, with a winner receiving $25,000 towards the purchase of a new car. Talent from TNT’s Inside the NBA show will also participate in the Autotrader contest to try to win money for a charity of their choice. And Autotrader also returns as sponsor of the Autotrader Tip-Off on TNT show and the Autotrader Pregame Show on NBA TV.
Kumho Tire will sponsor the Playoff Playback show presented by Kuhmo Tire on NBA TV, which is a 60-minute time shorted version of each playoff game.
Fan Duel will sponsor a free Fan Duel Daily Fantasy Game throughout the playoffs each day that will be open for fans to play on NBA.com and FanDuel.com.
Crown Royal will present the #NBAPlayoffs Spotlight, which will continuously keep fans up to date on the latest tweets, photos and other social engagement surrounding the playoffs by players and teams.
Kia will continue its sponsorship of the Inside the NBA studio show and sponsorship of the NBA Game Time post-game show. It is also the sponsor of the end of the season performance awards, including MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, Sixth Man, Most Improved and Rookie of the Year. The presentation of the awards will be televised on NBA TV.
And Sprint will sponsor both on-air halftime shows on TNT and NBA TV.
TNT is expecting to televise more than 40 games throughout the playoffs, while NBA TV, which is co-managed by Turner Sports and the NBA, will feature up to nine games during the first round. NBA TV will also televise its nightly NBA Game Time studio show throughout the playoffs and will be on-site during the NBA Finals which are being televised by ABC.
NBA.com and NBA Mobile will also offer playoff series content, live video coverage, highlights, stats, social interaction and will stream team and player press conferences.
TNT Overtime on NBA.com will deliver enhanced coverage for up to 30 playoff games with exclusive content and analysis from TNT commentators. TNT Overtime will be sponsored by Nissan during round one of the playoffs and by Sprint during rounds one and two and for the Eastern Conference Finals.
PepsiCo, which just signed a multi-year deal replacing Coca-Cola as an NBA official sponsor beginning in July, has been advertising its Mountain Dew brand in NBA telecasts this season and will continue that during the playoffs on TNT, Diament says.
On a category basis for the 40 nights or so of NBA playoff basketball on TNT, beer, distilled spirits, lawn care, electronics, telcos, QSRs and movies will be among the most active.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have been one of the most-watched teams this season both on national telecasts and on the team’s regional TV telecasts on Fox Sports Ohio. Diament believes not only James but the major stars on the other Eastern Conference playoff teams will draw fans to the playoff telecasts.
“These higher profile players each have a national following and those fans are going to tune in to watch them in the playoffs,” he says.