Turner Sports has booked more ad dollars for this weekend’s coverage of the NBA All-Star Game and surrounding televised events than in any of the previous 12 All-Star weekends it has telecast. At the same time, the NBA itself is seeing more promotion and activation from its marketing partners for the week leading up to the All-Star Game than ever before.
Jon Diament, executive VP for Turner Sports ad sales, says all TV time for NBA All-Star-related programming is sold out for the weekend on both Turner’s TNT and NBA TV, which Turner also sells for. He adds that ad inventory on both TurnerSports.com and NBA.com is also sold out.
Diament says ad pricing is up significantly, but he adds that it’s hard to come up with a single percentage of increase since ads were bought in a number of ways both in season-long packages and in scatter, and dating back to last year’s upfront.
As for the NBA, its partners are activating at higher levels this year with out-of-home advertising in key locations throughout New York City, in the subways and on taxis, with retail store takeovers, along with many parties and other special events.
Facilitating the strong response by the NBA’s partners is that events are being held in two boroughs, offering a chance to reach more consumers than usual. A Friday night celebrity game as well as the All-Star Game itself will be played on Sunday at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, home of the New York Knicks. The NBA skills competition will take place on Saturday night at the Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets. The Friday night celebrity game is sponsored by Sprint and will be televised on ESPN.
There are also two events taking place in Manhattan at Hammerstein Ballroom—a concert on Thursday night with a performance by the band Fall Out Boy, excerpts from which will be shown during TNT’s Inside theNBA postgame coverage of the Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Chicago Bulls game, and a Friday night performance by Jon Bon Jovi with highlights to be shown on Sunday night during All-Star Game coverage on TNT.
TNT will also televise on Saturday night the first annual NBA All-Star All-Style Fashion Show, presented by Samsung Galaxy and taped Friday night.
Diament says marketing activity is always greater when sporting events are held in New York City because a large number of the media agencies are located there, along with offices of many major marketers. He adds that fan activation is always more plentiful in New York with many nightclubs holding their own events and parties surrounding the official events.
“A lot of marketers will be launching new products around some of the All-Star events and there will be lots of custom content created for the TV commercials featuring NBA players,” Diament says. “Every NBA official partner is activated and advertising this year, and many of their competitors in the various categories are also stepping up.”
Among the most active advertiser categories are auto, financial, quick service restaurants, movies, wireless, financial and sneakers and other sports apparel.
American Express will sponsor the two music events as part of American Express All-Star Live atHammerstein Ballroom.
The NBA fashion show on Friday night, also taking place at the Hammerstein Ballroom, will be turned into a one-hour show on TNT to air on Saturday, Feb. 14 at 6:30 p.m. The show is being executive produced by LeBron James’ Springhill Production Company in association with Turner Sports and IMG, and will feature runway appearances by NBA stars James Harden, Klay Thompson, Chandler Parsons, DeMarcus Cousins and Zach LaVine, along with various supermodels.
In addition to Samsung Galaxy, NBA partners Ciroc Premium Vodka and Kia Motors will be integrated into the show, and commercial spots during the telecast were sold to additional NBA partners.
Diament says the creation of the fashion show event was a collaboration between Turner Sports, the NBA, Lebron James, IMG and Samsung and Kia, which both have relationships with James.
“We are expecting this event to get a huge amount of social media play in addition to the TV coverage,” Diament says, adding that plans call for a second show during the next All-Star week in Toronto in 2016.
Diament says plans for next year’s show call for participation to be expanded beyond NBA sponsors. “We are hoping to get brand name clothing manufacturers, shoe companies, colognes and other types of fashion and style advertisers to participate. We’re also hoping that this year’s telecast draws a female audience.”
Turner Sports’ Inside the NBA studio team of Charles Barkley, Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal will be broadcasting live from the Hammerstein Ballroom in front of a live audience beginning on Thursday night.
To promote its All-Star telecast events, Turner is utilizing four marketing tactics. Starting this week, in city cabs, fans during their ride will be greeted with a personalized message from the Inside the NBA team via VNET TaxiTV. TNT will also be running ads on digital taxi tops.
TNT will also take over Levels Barbershop in Brooklyn and Harlem from Thursday through Saturday from 7 p.m. to midnight and provide fans with free haircuts, giveaways and DJ music, with TVs showing TNT’s All-Star weekend coverage.
Turner will also have wrapped double-decker buses traveling around the city from 8 a.m. to 12 noon to promote the weekend activities. The LED-branded buses will include live streams of the weekend’s coverage, video highlights and social updates.
Turner Sports and DC Entertainment have also partnered to release a special edition comic book titled The Justice League Goes Inside the NBA All-Star Game 2015. The comic pairs TNT’s Inside the NBA studio team with the Justice League from DC Comics. The 16-page, limited edition comic will be available free at comic book stores around the city. It will also be available at the NBA Store in midtown Manhattan and in digital format via nba.com.
Among the televised events on Friday is the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge Practice. The game from Barclays Center at 9 p.m. will feature some of the NBA’s top young players. On Saturday, NBA TV from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. will present coverage from Madison Square Garden of the NBA All-Star Practicepresented by Sean Jean at Macy’s. The practice will also include the Degree Battle of the Game Changers with the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry and Washington Wizards’ John Wall competing to be named the “Ultimate Game Changer.” The coverage will also be streamed via NBA.com.
Beginning at 8 p.m., TNT will televise State Farm All-Star Saturday Night that will include the Degree Shooting Stars, Taco Bell Skills Challenge, Foot Locker Three-Point Contest and the Sprite Slam Dunk competition. All the sponsors are returning from last year except for Sears, which is being replaced by Degree.
On Sunday at 2:30 p.m., NBA TV will televise the NBA D-League All-Star Game, presented by Kumho Tire, and featuring NBA development-league players. Also on NBA TV, Sprint will sponsor a pregame NBA All-Star Game concert at 6 p.m. and on Sunday the All-Star Game will begin at 8 p.m. and will be simulcast on TNT and TBS for the first time. Live streaming of NBA All-Star programming airing on TNT will be available via tntdrama.com and the Watch TNT app. Fans will need a password provided by the TV service provider to log in.
Meanwhile, the NBA partner activations will be taking place throughout the week and weekend. New partner entrants in the All-Star space this year include Degree (Shooting Stars and Battle of the Game Changers title sponsor); Harman (sponsor of the pregame intros and Ariana Grande halftime performance); Kaiser Permanente (involvement in the NBA FIT celebration); Under Armour (promoting Stephen Curry’s first signature shoe, the Curry One); H&R Block (associate partner of the All-Star celebrity game and practice); and Kumho Tire (introducing an extensive marketing and digital campaign with the New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony).
Others planning new commercials include Gatorade, BBVA Compass, Adidas, Nike, Kia and Sprint.
The NBA is describing participation by nearly 30 NBA partners as a “New York Takeover.” Here are some of the partner activations:
• NBA House presented by BBVA. The league is offering two fan experiences, one near Madison Square Garden and the other near Barclays Center.
• Partners including Adidas, Nike, Foot Locker, Under Armour and Harman/JBL will host events at retail locations that will include player appearances.
• Sprite is promoting its “Obey Your Thirst” campaign via bus shelters, billboards, posters and bus signage throughout the city.
• State Farm will broadcast spots via in-taxi TV and the subway digital network and introduce signage on NYC bus wraps, including on double-decker buses.
• Kumho will promote its relationship with Carmelo Anthony via a subway station takeover, shuttle wrap and animated billboards throughout the city.
• Cisco, Ciroc, Nike and Jordan will all introduce extensive out-of-home elements throughout the city.
• Foot Locker and Nike are teaming up on House of Hoops, a retail concept outside of Madison Square Garden. The 5,100-square-foot location will serve as an elevated standalone hub promoting the brands and feature player appearances.
• State Farm is employing more than 100 “National Bureau of Assists” ambassadors to help fans to and from respective All-Star venues. They will be dressed in special themed outfits and hand out State Farm/All-Star MetroCard holders and All-Star bracelets.
• Adidas will have several product and promotional displays throughout the city.
• Nike and Jordan Brand are hosting player appearances at various retail locations throughout the city.
• Kia will display two new K900s at MSG and one at Barclays Center.
• FanDuel will hold its Road to NBA All-Star promotion where fans will have a chance to win daily prizes, including a VIP All-Star experience.
• Diageo’s Ciroc will present the celebrity red carpet at both the State Farm All-Star Saturday Night and the All-Star Game on Sunday. The brand also will have promotion material throughout the city including on taxi toppers.
• H&R Block will feature a cash machine at the All-Star celebrity game and All-Star practice.
Partners who will participate in the NBA House programs and activities include State Farm, Kia, Taco Bell, Adidas, Samsung, Sprint, Sprite, JBL and BBVA.
New digital offerings include American Express creating a fully immersive and tech-driven installation to be featured at the NBA House locations.
There are also a large number of NBA partners who will be involved in community initiatives on Friday across the city.
And Kia will donate its new 2016 Kia Sorrento to the Kia All-Star MVP’s charity of choice.
With the NBA All-Star Game weekend meaning much more for marketers and their activations than just the game telecast alone, Turner Sports thrives on the value of participating beyond the TV events.
Last year’s All-Star Game telecast from New Orleans on TNT drew 7.5 million viewers, down slightly from the 8 million the game drew in 2013. However, the Saturday night skills competition telecast drew 5.7 million, a decent crowd for the lowest-viewing TV night of the week.
Regardless of the viewership numbers this coming weekend, more marketers than ever before have jumped in to participate.
“There aren’t a lot of real positive stories out there involving television right now, but this event is one of the good stories,” says TNT’s Diament.