Turner Sports has surpassed last year’s record NBA All-Star Weekend ad revenue take, taking in more ad dollars than in any of the previous 13 All-Star weekends it has telecast.
Jon Diament, executive VP for Turner Sports ad sales, says all ad time for NBA All-Star related programming on both Turner’s TNT and NBA TV, which Turner also sells for, sold out earlier than last year and at ad rates that averaged double-digit percentage increases.
Diament says the early sellout for this weekend’s events, including the NBA Skills Competition telecast on Saturday night and the All-Star Game on Sunday night, is due to a strong commitment from the league’s official marketing partners, with a lot of deals being consummated during the upfront, as well as a strong scatter market and some new sponsorship activations that will be introduced.
New advertisers in this year’s All-Star Weekend telecasts include Apple, Intel, Nike, Open Road Films, Tissot and Verizon, among others. NBA TV also has those new advertisers, along with Carfax.
The top five categories in the NBA on TNT’s All-Star Weekend coverage include: telecommunications; movie studios; automotive; apparel, fashion & retail; and insurance. The top five ad categories on NBA TV’s coverage include: apparel, fashion & retail; financial/business services; telecommunications; furniture/appliances & electronics; and automotive.
“The live sports marketplace continues to be strong,” says Diament, adding that his sales staff also sold advertising across all the Turner and NBA TV digital platforms, along with assorted integration opportunities.
At the same time, the NBA itself has once again seen an increase in promotion and activation from its marketing partners for the events being held throughout the weekend in this year’s game site city of Toronto. In all, five major advertisers will be activating around NBA All-Star weekend for the first time.
Last year’s All-Star Game telecast from New York’s Madison Square Garden drew only 7.2 million viewers, down from 7.5 million in 2014 and below the 8 million who watched in 2013 and the 9.1 million who watched in 2011. And while the All-Star Saturday night skills competition telecast drew a record 6.1 million viewers, those certainly don’t seem like mass audience numbers that brands would flock to.
So why are marketers so keen?
Dave Campanelli, senior VP and director of national television at Horizon Media, whose clients including Kia (an official NBA marketing partner), Geico and Corona are involved in All-Star weekend, says both the NBA audience and the timing of the game is right for sports advertisers.
“The NBA has a young, live and more social media savvy audience,” he says, and there are many opportunities to capitalize on social media tie-ins to the game so brands can get additional exposure. The timing of the telecast is also right for sports advertisers--after the Super Bowl and before the NCAA March Madness telecasts begin in March.
“NBA All-Star Weekend is a tentpole event for many sports advertisers,” Campanelli adds.
And the stats back up Campanellli’s feelings about All-Star weekend being a major social media event. Last year, All-Star Saturday night content published across the NBA on TNT and NBA TV accounts on Facebook and Twitter reached a gross audience of 77 million fans and followers and generated 14.5 million video viewers. All-Star Saturday night was the Number One social primetime program on television, according to Nielsen Social Guide and represented 73% of the total Twitter audience for the entire day.
Dan Donnelly, executive VP of SPORTS at SMG, the sports marketing unit of Starcom Mediavest Group, says All-Star Weekend is popular among many brands for a number of reasons, starting with the NBA’s audience that is not only younger but also multicultural, an audience harder to reach for many brands. Samsung, an SMG client, is an official NBA partner.
Donnelly adds that All-Star Weekend’s experiential opportunities in the host city, which this year is Toronto, gives marketers opportunities to talk about their brands face-to-face with consumers and to engage live with fans at various events.
“Brands can also develop special content for these events, some of which can be used on air and also distributed on the brands’ own websites and via other digital and social media platforms,” Donnelly says.
“NBA star players are now part of pop culture and are very active in areas like fashion and music and popular on social media and they far exceed the involvement of players from any of the other professional sports,” Donnelly adds.
As for the 7-plus million viewers the game has drawn the past few years, Donnelly says that “is a pretty good number to reach a live TV audience.”
TNT will televise more than 26 hours of NBA All-Star Weekend coverage, including the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge from Toronto’s Air Canada Centre on Friday, Feb. 12, at 9 p.m., the State Farm All-Star Saturday Night competition on Saturday, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. and the 65th annual NBA All-Star Game presented by Kia on Sunday Feb. 14 at 8 p.m. Similar to last year, the All-Star Game will be simulcast on TNT and TBS.
Last year TNT on Saturday televised an NBA fashion show in which NBA stars walked the runway along with various supermodels. This year that is being replaced by the NBA Talent Challenge at 6 p.m. on Saturday night, a competition featuring NBA players demonstrating their off-the-court talents. The show is being produced by Turner Sports in association with Juma Entertainment and will include NBA players Harrison Barnes of Golden State playing the saxophone, New Orleans’ Norris Cole playing piano, Brooklyn’s Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, singing, Atlanta’s Mike Muscala, rapping, and Phoenix’s Jon Leuer, juggling. Fan voting will determine the winner.
Within the State Farm All-Star Saturday night will be the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, Foot Locker Three-Point Contest and the Verizon Slam Dunk competition. Taco Bell and Foot Locker return as sponsors, while Verizon replaces last year’s Slam Dunk sponsor Sprite.
NBA TV will deliver its most expansive live and original programming lineup ever for All-Star weekend. NBA TV, NBA.com and NBA App will combine to offer access to All-Star practices, interviews with the players and coaches and highlights from the weekend’s top events and activities.
In addition to sponsoring the Slam Dunk Contest for the first time, Verizon is also co-sponsor with Mountain Dew the TNT Overtime on Saturday night show which follows the skills competition show.
Mountain Dew will capitalize on its rights as a new league marketing partner by sponsoring the in-arena DJ cam, which will provide fans an alternate view of events in the arena and will be incorporated into the TNT telecast and be featured within TNT Overtime. Mountain Dew is also sponsoring a contest on NBA.com which began Feb. 10 in which fans can vote to choose a song that will be played during the All-Star Game warmups.
Turner Sports is also partnering with Intel and will use the company’s technology to power various experiences during the weekend. It will use the freeD format, which will use 28 cameras installed throughout the arena and Intel processor technology to capture a digital reconstruction of the game and turn it into a 3D experience.
In its telecasts throughout the weekend, Turner will use select freeD clips and brand it as “Experience Intel with freeD.”
Kia Motors America, through a deal brokered with Turner Sports and the NBA, will be the first non-apparel NBA partner to have it logo appear on the NBA All-Star Game jerseys. It will also be the first time one of the major U.S. professional sports leagues will include a non-apparel partner’s logo on an All-Star game uniform. Kia will have a special patch in the upper left chest area of both teams’ jerseys. It will also be part of the official NBA All-Star jerseys sold in retail stores in the U.S. and Canada.
Kia also returns as presenting sponsor of Sunday Night’s All-Star Game.
State Farm during the Saturday Night skills competition which it is sponsoring, will debut a new commercial as part of its “Meet The Hoopers” campaign and there will also be an in-arena extension for the campaign, as well as an integration in the TNT studio show on Saturday night.
State Farm will also bring its Assist Tracker courtside during the All-Star Game and count every assist by players. It will donate $1800 per assist (representing its 1800 agents) to the Boys & Girls Club of America. And that execution will be highlighted during the TNT telecast.
Autotrader, both a partner with the NBA and Turner Sports, will sponsor both the TNT and NBA TV pre-game shows during the weekend. Each week during the regular season leading up to the All-Star Weekend, Turner’s Inside the NBA studio team has competed against each other in Autotrader’s Perfect Math contest when they were asked to pick the winners of that week’s games. During TNT’s All-Star Saturday Night coverage, Autotrader will donate a car to the winning analyts’ charity of choice and that presentation will be televised.
Some other sponsors include: Inside Stuff presented by Samsung on NBA TV; the NBA D-League All-Star Game presented by Kumho Tire on NBA TV; Dr. Scholl’s will sponsor All-Star content on nba.com; Harman will sponsor the All-Star Scene video franchise on nba.com; and Honda will sponsor the All-Star Comparisons video franchise on nba.com.
Turner also sold packages on Bleacher Report to supplement its NBA digital and linear coverage. Among the sponsors are Old Spice, Quicken Loans and Foot Locker, who are sponsoring the NBA All-Star Team Stream NOW video franchise; Jordan Brand which is sponsoring the NBA All-Star Celebrity + Fashion Package; Fed Ex, which is sponsoring the NBA All-Star Team Steam mobile package; and McDonald’s, which is sponsoring the All-Star Surround Sponsorship that includes content from Turner’s B/R Studios, The Lab and Featured Content franchises.
More than 25 NBA partners will activate throughout the weekend. Among them:
--Mountain Dew will sponsor the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game on Friday Night on ESPN. It will also debut a new commercial campaign and will participate in the NBA Fan Experience. It will also takeover Union Station in Toronto with a creative ad presentation.
--Tissot will display its NBA and team-themed watch collections and make them available for purchase at the in-arena NBA store. The brand will also conduct a Tissot Time Crunch basketball contest.
--Canada Goose will create custom coats for both the East and West All-Star players and will operate two VIP All-Star coat check locations within Air Canada Centre.
--Samsung will host The Samsung Experience and host a party on Saturday night.
--Kia, in addition to its other sponsorships, will host six vehicle displays at various locations, will host a 360-degree fan video/photo opportunity and donate a 2015 Kia Sorrento to the Kia All-Star MVPs charity of choice.
--BBVA will be the title partner of the BBVA Compass Rising Stars game and will launch a new creative campaign featuring several current NBA stars.
--Nike will take over the streets of Toronto will a fan engagement platform it is calling SNKRS XPRESS.
--Under Armour will sponsor Jr. NBA Day on Friday, Feb. 12 and will outfit the program’s 2500 participants and volunteers. The NBA All-Star players will participate also.
--Nike will conduct a Basketball Without Borders Global Camp.
--Gatorade will host a city-tournament in Toronto.
Marv Albert will be calling his 21st NBA All-Star Game, doing the play-by-play with game analysts Reggie Miller and Chris Webber and reporters Craig Sager and David Aldridge. Perhaps motivating more viewers than usual to tune in will be the appearance of the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant playing in his 18th and final All-Star game.