Ad spending up big for NBA game telecasts


Austin Karp here, filling in for Terry Lefton, who is on assignment this week.

I’m caught up on the first six episodes of “Winning Time” on HBO, and I’m a fan of Adam McKay’s comedy/drama (and maybe in the minority opinion if my Twitter feed is any indication). While some elements of the show are a little over the top, I’m enjoying the background look at the Lakers of the ’80s — particularly the sports business nuggets sprinkled in from time to time.

“Just keep swimming.” — Dory.

Advertisers returned to nationally televised NBA games in a big way this season, as the spend on those telecasts was up 114% from the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season, according to an analysis of data from iSpot.TV. 

A full 82-game season led more brands to get in on increased advertising in 2021-22 (even with increased primetime TV ad rates), translating to an estimated ad spend of $449.6 million on nationally-aired NBA games, up from $209.8 million last season with 72 games (that’s a 14% uptick in game inventory). Around 112 brands spent over $1 million on national TV ads on NBA games this season — almost double what the figure was last season.

State Farm once again spent the most on TV ads during NBA national game telecasts during the 2021-22 regular season, outlaying an estimated $13.7 million, which is up from $7.6 million last season. State Farm also had the most-seen ad during NBA games with its “Photo Shoot” spot starring Suns G Chris Paul and Hawks G Trae Young (171.2 million impressions).

Google Phones was the No. 2 advertiser during games with an outlay of $11.6 million, followed by Taco Bell ($10.8 million), GEICO ($10.4 million) and AT&T Wireless ($10 million). Among the top 10 brands in terms of ad spend, seven are league sponsors. There were three brands in the top 10 from the telecom category (Google Phones, AT&T Wireless and T-Mobile), and three from insurance (State Farm, GEICO and Progressive). McDonald’s, which was No. 2 in NBA ad spend last season, did not crack the top 10 this season.

Top brands by national TV ad spend
during NBA games in 2021-22 season (per iSpot.TV)
1 State Farm* $13.7 million
2 Google Phones* $11.6 million
3 Taco Bell* $10.8 million
4 GEICO $10.4 million
5 AT&T Wireless* $10.0 million
6 Kia* $8.4 million
7t American Express* $8.0 million
7t T-Mobile $8.0 million
9 CarMax* $7.9 million
10 Progressive $7.4 million
NOTE: * = Official NBA sponsor.


While Modelo was not among the top 10 brands in estimated TV ad spend, its spot “The Fighting Spirit of Damian Lillard” was the second-best in terms of impressions with 152.8 million. Last season, Hennessy had the most impressions during NBA games with its “New Lines” spot.

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Most-seen brand ads during nationally televised
NBA games in 2021-22 season (per iSpot.TV)
1 State Farm* “Photo Shoot” 171.2 million
2 Modelo “The Fighting Spirit of Damian Lillard” 152.8 million
3 Google Phones* “Anthem: NBA” 150.8 million
4 Coors Light “Mascots” 149.8 million
5 Heineken “Cheers with No Alcohol” 146.6 million
6 Nissan “Electric Cars for Electric Drivers” 144.5 million
7t State Farm* “Rings” 143.5 million
7t Gatorade* “The Moment Possibilities Are Born” 143.5 million
9 CarMax* “Call Your Shot: Instant Offers” 131.5 million
10 Wingstop “Gym” 123.4 million
NOTE: * = Official NBA sponsor.


In terms of categories accounting for the most ad impressions during NBA games (excluding the networks themselves), QSRs ranked No. 1 at 12.1%, followed by auto/general insurance (7.3%) and autos (6%).


Volkswagen added to its sports sponsorship portfolio recently, becoming auto sponsor of the Galaxy and its MLS venue, Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. SBJ’s Michael Cupello notes that extends the German brand’s soccer portfolio in North America, which has included deals with U.S. Soccer, USMNT MF Weston McKinnie, NWSL San Diego Wave FC F Alex Morgan, the USL Las Vegas Lights and Liga MX clubs Chivas, Queretaro, Monterrey and Pumas.

In Europe, Volkswagen’s soccer portfolio includes UEFA, Bundesliga clubs Red Bull Leipzig and VfL Wolfsburg, LaLiga clubs Osasuna and Huesca, Serie A club Napoli and Paris St.-Germain F Neymar.

Now, Volkswagen plans to push two of its luxury brands — Porsche and Audi — into F1 starting in 2026. Audi is reportedly seeking a stake in McLaren’s F1 team, while Porsche is pursuing a partnership with Red Bull Racing.

To learn more about how global companies are interacting and changing the sports landscape, head to SBJ Atlas.

Neymar, Alex Morgan and Weston McKinnie are among the soccer players sponsored by Volkswagen

Some of the recent crypto deals in and around sports business:

  • Tissot tomorrow will be the first sponsor to have a brand integration with NBA Top Shot that incorporates a pack drop queue giveaway. The players featured are Stephen Curry, Spencer Dinwiddie, Monte Morris, Cameron Johnson and Kelly Olynyk.

  • The Cowboys have a new deal with London-based for an expansive sponsorship, one month after the NFL dropped barriers to the category, reports SBJ’s Ben Fischer.
  • Socios, which can’t sell its usual product to NFL fans under the league’s blockchain policy, is kicking off a major marketing push with 13 team deals in hopes that day will soon come, per Fischer. Socios is becoming a sponsor of the Falcons, 49ers, Eagles, Dolphins, Bears, Steelers, Ravens, Browns, Chargers, Buccaneers, Giants, Rams and Commanders, bringing its total team deals to 14, including a one-off with Kraft Sports & Entertainment in November that includes the Patriots.
  • Roger Penske has struck a broad deal with Tom Brady’s NFT company Autograph that involves making digital collectibles around IndyCar, the Indianapolis 500, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Team Penske, notes SBJ’s Adam Stern.
  • The Warriors through their partnership with FTX are becoming the first pro sports team to roll out a responsive NFT collection ahead of the NBA playoffs, reports SBJ’s David Rumsey.

  • Deloitte has renewed its sponsorship as the official professional services provider of U.S. Soccer, reports SBJ’s Ted Keith.
  • SBJ this week announced our latest class of Forty Under 40 honorees. Among those with ties to sports marketing/sponsorship/advertising/licensing are T-Mobile’s Amy Azzi, Anheuser-Busch’s Matt Davis, CSM Sport & Entertainment’s Gina Hagedorn, Fanatics’ Tucker Kain and American Express’ Lindsay Ulrey.
  • Sportfive, formerly Lagardère, is buttressing its U.S. consulting division through the acquisition of sports, entertainment and event marketing firm Wolfe Solutions, notes SBJ’s Terry Lefton.
  • Licensing and sponsorship are the most lucrative parts of the American Cornhole League, Commissioner Stacey Moore tells SBJ. A key partnership is with Utah-based, whose ACL-licensed boards sell for as much as $500 apiece, while top-line bean bags cost $100 for a set of eight.
  • Interstate Batteries chair Norm Miller pointed to Joe Gibbs’ engagement with the brand as the key for its NASCAR team sponsorship, writes SBJ’s Bill King. Gibbs has been a fixture at Interstate’s hospitality area before each race, signing autographs and posing for pictures.