In a season marked by record-setting attendance figures, the NBA in 2022-23 raked in $1.4 billion in team sponsorship revenue, up $100 million, or 10.5%, from the previous regular-season campaign.
According to a new report from SponsorUnited, the NBA’s 30 franchises nailed down 2,430 sponsorship deals during the season, which tipped off on Oct. 18 and ended April 9. That marked a 3.5% lift compared to 2021-22, the league’s first full 82-game season since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
NBA franchises made a killing by forging sponsorship deals with brands across the financial services, tech, healthcare, gambling and alcohol sectors. Per the SponsorUnited report, banks and credit cards led the way with a $289 million investment, up 9% from the year-ago period, while tech poured $96 million into the promotional machine. That was down 1% versus tech’s 2021-22 spend, while healthcare investment increased 7% to $92 million, and alcohol grew 3% to $79 million.
Gambling was one of the fastest-growing categories, with sponsorship revenues adding up to $71 million, a gain of 21%. For on-site advertisers of all stripes, the regular season was a great time to do business with the NBA, as the league boasted a record 791 sellouts. Overall attendance was 22.2 million, which broke the previous record of 22.1 million set in 2017-18. Capacity was also at an all-time high 97%.
The beer/wine/spirits crowd was hard to miss this season, as premium tequila brands stamped their trademarks all over a number of jammed arenas. Among the most high-octane sponsors in the tequila niche include Astral, Casa Noble and Herradura‒all of which inked new team partnerships this season.
The enthusiasm for blue-agave distillers began brewing in 2019, when the small-batch Cincoro Tequila signed on as an official backer of the Lakers. As it happens, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss is one of five NBA kingmakers who founded the premium tequila brand; the other stakeholders are Michael Jordan, Bucks co-owner Wes Edens, and Celtics co-owners Wyc Grousbeck and Emilia Fazzalari.
At present, 66% of all NBA clubs have locked in sponsorships deals with a tequila manufacturer, and active players are also getting in on the action. LeBron James has backed Lobos 1707 since late 2020, and Anthony Davis last fall revealed that he too has a stake in the brand during a postgame presser.
When Austin Reaves upset a number of adult beverages during an impromptu collision with court-side fans during a Nov. 18 Pistons-Lakers game, the undrafted free agent later told a reporter that he’d “asked LeBron if that was his Lobos over there … ‘cause it smelled horrible.” When Davis responded with an admonitory, “I’m an investor, bro,” Hillbilly Kobe replied, “That don’t mean it don’t taste good.”
In addition to the tequila craze, NBA players are also beefing up their personal brand portfolios with less-traditional endorsements for products ranging from personal care/health and beauty to tire manufacturers and non-alcoholic beer.
On the league-wide front, the NBA tipped off the season with a loaded roster of 45 official sponsors, ranging from Adidas to Wilson. In a relatively rare show of sponsor churn, the league forged ahead without an official quick-service restaurant partner for the first time since 2009. (After unseating McDonald’s 13 years earlier, Taco Bell’s parent company, Yum Brands, elected against renewing its deal-wide sponsorship with the league.) Apple’s Beats By Dre and Kaiser Permanente also did not suit up for the 2022-23 campaign.
The NBA’s media partners also enjoyed a surge of business, as regular-season in-game ad spend on TNT/ESPN/ABC jumped nearly 13% year-over-year to just shy of $633 million. According to iSpot.tv data, that was good for a net gain of $71.3 million in spend across the three networks.
Top TV spenders included official league sponsors Google Pixel, AT&T, State Farm and Kia Motors, and while the Taco Bell tie-up was discontinued, the brand was still one of the top 10 NBA advertisers in 2022-23.