Edit desk: The NBA as a brand


What do you think of when you see the words “National Basketball Association?”

Micah Golomb-Leavitt

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.

It’s entertainment.

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].

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1 Comment

  1. Robert Davenport on

    I’m going to be a “Debbie Downer”. The NBA is one of my least favorite professional team sports. For basketball, I would rather watch Lehigh play than “the City”. I think the players are so good that they overpower the game, making it uninteresting. It’s a game where a small group of players can conspire to create a team that can overpower others and win championships almost at will. It’s a league where fans complain that their team is playing too hard so as not to be eligible for a possible team changing draft choice and where other teams “tank” on purpose so as to be eligible for the same choice. It’s a league where referees can control games and in my opinion do so to protect players that fans pay to see.

    What you write about is the glitzy cover to make the league a financial success. You write the truth as the NBA would want you to do so. Watch Lehigh and Army tonight, not as great or cool playing in brown and white or black and gray but to me much more real. I realize I am in the minority, seeing that the Warriors pull more for a game than the Lehigh women do for a season. I don’t care.

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