What do you think of when you see the words “National Basketball Association?”
Thirty teams. Highlight plays. LeBron James. Various statistics.
But the NBA has become something so much more than just basketball — it’s one of the most marketed brands in the world.
The American professional basketball league has come a long way from its roots. When it was founded in 1946, no one could have expected the association to be where it is today. It concentrates on aspects of entertainment alongside the sport of basketball.
Now, the NBA promotes fashion by featuring players’ outfits on social media and selling merchandise. Additionally, the NBA draws attention to individual player fan bases and has sponsorships and partnerships with brands like Sprite, Kia, State Farm and Nike to build brand awareness. The NBA teams’ sponsors represent each respective team’s city.
The NBA has become a platform for advertising.
Take the Golden State Warriors.
After the introduction of NBA team sponsors — like when General Electric paired with the Boston Celtics and Fitbit with the Minnesota Timberwolves — Rakuten, Japan’s primary e-commerce site, partnered with the Warriors for the purpose of expanding its brand to the United States.
The CEO of Rakuten, Hiroshi Mikitani, negotiated the $60 million deal with the Warriors, the star-studded defending champions, and one of the most watched teams in the NBA. His company is trying to gain an edge on its largest competitor, Amazon and the NBA was a smart direction to go.
The NBA is a great promotional tool for its sponsors.
By partnering with Nike, the NBA added fashion to their sleeve of marketing tricks. Nike has designed chic, colorful jerseys for each franchise. The company came out with “Statement” and “Icon” uniforms promoting stylistic confidence, and “City” edition uniforms to represent something special about the history of each city the NBA teams represent.
The NBA isn’t just basketball.
Watching a game feels like watching a movie — vibrant and emotional.
Some people might question the purpose of watching basketball, especially if they are not fans of the sport or individual teams.
But the NBA isn’t just about the team aspect of the sport, even though ultimately it’s the team that wins.
Many people, especially outside of the U.S., are still LeBron or Steph Curry fans even though they don’t necessarily follow basketball. This is because each player develops his own brand by designing shoes, basketballs and clothing lines. Each player gains legitimate recognition from their fans and develops a personal fanbase.
Many of my friends don’t follow specific teams but instead root for individual players like Warriors’ sharpshooting forward Kevin Durant or thrilling Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook.
Because basketball players don’t have to wear helmets like NFL players, fans become more familiar with athletes — they can watch players’ faces, reactions to calls by the referees and determination as they burst to the rim.
Beyond player admiration, the NBA provides its players with ample opportunity to showcase their talents.
All-Star Weekend features three days of exciting events, including a Rising Stars game for the league’s young talent, a slam dunk contest, a three-point shootout and of course the All-Star Game. Each event features various NBA players all deserving recognition for their respective niches in the sport.
By providing players with the resources to grow their personal brands, shining a spotlight on fashion for broader audiences and partnering with several renowned brands, the NBA has continuously raised its ratings and is currently embracing its second-most-watched season ever.
The NBA modeling itself as a brand is electric and allows for a lot of fan interaction. I love watching NBA games, but I also find it entertaining to keep up with the players when they’re not on the hardwood floors. Through their marketing strategy, I think the NBA adds to its originality in a one-of-a-kind manner, adding color and character to sports.
If you’re searching for a sport to watch, or you want to learn more about one, look into the NBA. It’s easy to follow and fascinating in aspects aside from just the sport of basketball. With its relatively modified appearance and player emphasis, the professional basketball league is as exhilarating as ever.
Give it a chance, you may fall in love with the league like I have.
Micah Golomb-Leavitt, ’20, is an associate lifestyle editor for The Brown and White. He can be reached at [email protected].