When brands attach themselves to popular images or events, these brands hope to adopt more meaning in the minds of consumers. Today, the NBA – with over 115M followers across YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram – is effective in reaching a wide audience through social media. Brands have taken advantage of this, accessing their target demographic both through official NBA league and official NBA team accounts. However, the NBA and teams stay relevant by also talking about current event and other popular brands. We analyzed which brands were the most talked about and which got the most engagement on posts about them by the NBA and the teams in the league.

As reported by Sports Business Daily, the NBA entered their 2018-2019 season with 26 league-level partnerships; according to the Hookit database, however, the NBA mentioned 49 brands on social media over the course of the season. Diving into the data, we compared the ratio of posts, interactions on those posts, and the views on the video posts for sponsors to non-sponsors exclusively looking at text mentions of brands by official social accounts of teams and the league. Post interactions refers to the number of likes, comments, and shares across any social platform; high engagement typically indicates that a sponsorship is making an impact for a brand.

Although there were 8 reported sponsors that the NBA didn’t mention at all on social media during the season (2K Sports, Aquafina, AutoTrader.com, Brisk, Doritos, EA Sports, Jack Daniel’s, and MGM Resorts), brands that were official sponsors still captured 61% of total posts, 69% of total interactions, and 74% of total views compared to posts for brands that were non-sponsors. Even so, that means that 39% of the posts made by the NBA on social media about brands were about brands that are not NBA partners!

The Top 5 brands that the NBA generated engagement for were Tissot, YouTube, State Farm, KIA, and Mountain Dew, with 18.3M, 10.8M, 7.4M, 7.3M, and 5.4M interactions, respectively. Each of these 5 brands were official sponsors. The brand that had the highest interactions as a non-sponsor was Quicken Loans with 191K interactions. While Quicken Loans is the naming rights sponsor for the Cleveland Cavaliers, they aren’t on SBD’s official NBA partners list. That beats out 15+ actual partners of the league, including YouTube TV, Kaiser Permanente, and Nike, with 24K, 17K, and 12K interactions, respectively. 

When it comes to teams promoting brands, the Boston Celtics captured three of the top five spots in most engagement generated for promoted brands. The brand with the most interactions generated by a team’s social media posts was Putnam Investments with the Celtics at 9.1M interactions, followed by Anheuser-Busch InBev’s brand Budweiser with the LA Lakers at 4.9M interactions, Arbella Insurance with the Celtics at 4.6M interactions, Frost Bank the jersey patch of the San Antonio Spurs at 3.8M interactions, and finally JetBlue with the Celtics at 3.4M interactions. Surprisingly, the only brand in the top 5 most engaged brands from team promotion that was also a league sponsor was the number two spot, Anheuser-Busch InBev’s brand Budweiser. Second only to Putnam Investments with regards to interactions, the runner-up actually captured twice the number of views as the frontrunner – 19.4M views compared to 7.4M views – showing that video content can drive more engagement than interactions on photos or text posts.

Although NBA teams collectively mentioned 462 brands (with many teams mentioning the same brands), there were 250+ brand sponsors that weren’t mentioned by their respective NBA team partners on social media. A handful of these sponsors were also NBA league sponsors and, although they may not have been mentioned by a particular team they sponsored, some were mentioned by other teams or on league accounts; other sponsors weren’t mentioned on any accounts at all. Of the brands that were mentioned, however, sponsored posts by teams typically drove high engagement, with a single post generating an average of 93,000 interactions. Non-sponsors, on the other hand, received considerably less engagement on posts promoting their brand, garnering on average 18,000 interactions. This difference in fan engagement on promoted posts as well as the share of voice benefit that sponsors get clearly indicates the value that sponsor brands receive from associated with the league and teams.

As more brands begin to give themselves a voice through avenues such as team and league sponsorships, there is a need to know the data behind their sponsorships and whether they are being effectively promoted by their partners. 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.  

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