At the informal halfway point of the 2018–19 NBA season, Team LeBron faced off against Team Giannis at the 2019 NBA All-Star game. Not only was this the gathering of the best and most iconic 26 players in the league, but also a chance to look at the competing brands that they bolster on and off the court day in and day out.
This article analyzes the social media sponsorship values earned by participating brands from the start of the 2018–19 NBA season up until the All-star game (October 16,2018 – February 14, 2019), as well as the sponsorship value earned by brands on the day of the All-star game(February 15–17, 2019).
Brand winners: 2018–19 NBA season leading up to the 2019 All-Star game
LeBron James: Dominant On and Off the Court
The three-time NBA champion had 259M social media engagements from 325 posts, which was equal to the combined social media engagements of the other 25 All-Stars. This can be attributed in part to his massive social media following, as he holds the sole crown as the only NBA player with over 100M followers across all social platforms. This season, he leads the league in not just total social media engagements, but also gained the most social media followers (4.8M). The total value he drove to his sponsor brands from the start of the season up to the 2019 All-Star game was over $22M.
From the beginning of the season until the All-Star game, Stephen Curry ($27M), LeBron James ($22M), and Russell Westbrook ($12M) were the top 3 players who drove the most value for their sponsors on social media. The three heavyweights are each leading ambassadors of their respective shoe sponsors — LeBron with Nike, Curry with Under Armour, and Russell Westbrook with Jordan. These three athletes have also driven the most value to their respective shoe brand, so it’s fitting for them to be the face of that brand in basketball. LeBron drove $765k for Nike, Westbrook drove $645k for Jordan, while Curry drove $217k in ad value for Under Armour.
The Beard Cooking Up with Adidas : Not one to be left behind, starting in his 7th All-Star game and fresh off a MVP campaign, James Harden continues to make a name for himself as well as for Adidas in the NBA. By driving $5M towards his sponsors, he leads in value driven among all players representing Adidas (value driven to Adidas: $87k).
Sponsorship All-Star MVP?
Chef Curry’s cooking up again and not just from three-point range, but from sponsorship value. So far this season, the six time All-Star has driven the most sponsorship value of any NBA player for his brands, topping off at $27 million, most notably Under Armour. While LeBron has been dominating with his large following almost incomparable to anyone’s, Stephen Curry led with over 1,800 social media posts, 6x more than LeBron and 1.5 times more than the other top 5 All-Stars combined. Even with so many posts on social media, Curry was only barely able to edge LeBron James out for the most sponsorship value thus far.
Nike Well Ahead of the Competition
With more than 40% of the All-Stars representing Nike, The Swoosh reigns supreme within the NBA, especially with its league jersey sponsorship. Adidas, Under Armour and Jordan (a Nike brand) as well as a couple of independent brands such as Anta and Li-Ning round out the shoe sponsors of the All-Stars. Nike dominates the All-Stars with 15 players to the brand’s credit and 3 more under the Jordan brand, while the other heavy weights fill out the remaining 8.
On taking a closer look at these brands, we can see that Nike’s athletes are making good on their contracts, driving over $249k more value for the brand than Jordan, Under Armour and Adidas combined.
When considering the top 5 All-Stars who drove the highest sponsorship value towards their respective shoe brands, it’s not surprising to see LeBron James (Nike) leading the way, followed by Russell Westbrook (Jordan). In third place is Kyrie Irving, who has been a sleeper with his rankings, but drives a value of over $387k for Nike. While his social media presence may not be as strong as his peers (he had 6M social media engagements and has over 19M social media followers), he promotes his sponsors well on social media, driving high value for his sponsors.
Head to Head: Who Wins the REAL Battle?
When the teams are pitted against each other, we can see some interesting results when breaking down their sponsorship value.
- Value driven to sponsors: Off the bat, we can see the closest result shaping up in the total value driven, as Team Giannis barely edges out Team LeBron by $600k. This is primarily due to the combined sponsorship value of $40M driven by Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook.
- Social media engagements: Considering social media engagements of both teams, Team LeBron wins hands down. With over 364M engagements across social media, Team LeBron has 2.3 times more engagements than Team Giannis (155M). In fact, the combined social media engagements of all players in Team Giannis is only 60% of LeBron’s social media engagements.
- Social media followers: Team LeBron wins the total social media followers and social media followers gained. This can be attested to LeBron’s dominance on social media. With over 100M followers on his social channels and gaining 4.8M followers during the season, LeBron has an overwhelmingly massive social media presence compared to the rest of the league. Another astounding fact, LeBron’s social media followers (112M) is equal to 97% of the combined social media followers of Team Giannis (116M).
Brand Winners of the 2019 All-Star weekend (Feb 15–17, 2019)
As with last year’s All-Star weekend, each event was sponsored by a particular sponsor, such as Mtn Dew sponsoring the Rising Stars and 3 pt contest, Taco Bell sponsoring the Skills Challenge, State Farm sponsoring the All-Star Saturday night and automotive manufacturer KIA sponsoring the 2019 All-Star game.
- Total value earned by participating sponsors during the All-Star weekend was over $7M.
- Among all sponsors at the All-Star weekend, State Farm earned the highest value through promoted posts on social media. The insurance brand who is a long time sponsor of the NBA earned over $3M over the All-Star weekend. 52% of this value was driven by the NBA, followed by athletes who drove 24% of value for the brand.
- KIA, the presenting sponsor of the All-Star game was second by ad value, earning $2M through promoted posts. The NBA was again the primary value driver, driving 45% of the total value earned by the brand, followed by athletes who drove 27% of the total value.
- Nike, NBA’s uniform sponsor earned the third highest ad value of $869k, followed by automotive tire manufacturer Kumho Tire ($335k) and sports drink Gatorade with $322k.
The All-Star NBA players gave fans a show on court, while bringing social media numbers to their sponsors off court as well. Who knows, this time next year, with LeBron and Steph aging another year, and rising stars like Harden and Giannis entering their social media prime, we might see another Sponsorship Value King.
The right metrics and insights can help sponsor brands understand which of their sponsored properties are most effective and drive higher ROI. Sponsor brands can gain this competitive advantage by leveraging the Hookit platform to make effective sponsorship decisions and strategy. Contact us today for a free demo of our powerful sports sponsorship platform.