Oct 17, 2018 at 12:00 AM
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Tip-off 2018: Five Sponsorship Stories to Watch this NBA Season

Can anyone stop the three-peat? That's not the only question this NBA season. With a new season tipping off this week, here's a quick rundown of some of our top sponsorship stories and category shake-ups to watch over the next eight months of the 2018-19 NBA season.

1. Gambling: Arguably the biggest story of the off-season was the NBA's new $25 million, 3-year partnership with MGM, becoming the first major U.S. sports league to align with a betting sponsor. According to a recent study commissioned by the American Gaming Association, the NBA could generate an additional $78 million annually in sponsorship revenue from gaming operators. Since the NBA was the most vocal proponent, among the big 4 leagues, for legalizing gambling, it will be interesting to see what MGM and the NBA have up their sleeve.

2. Speaking of Sleeves..: With the Rockets and Bulls this week announcing their jersey patch sponsors, only three teams will start the season with the lucrative inventory unfilled: the Pacers, Wizards and Thunder. While some have opted for bigger, more recognizable partners like GE and StubHub, others have signed upstarts looking to make a name for themselves like Wish, Biofreeze and Zenni. Now that most of these multi-year deals are signed, the question is whether the pricey 2.5 x 2.5 patch will move the needle?

3. International: Among the first handful of companies to sign a jersey patch deal was Japanese technology company, Rakuten. Since then, teams have found increasing success courting overseas sponsors. In the past few weeks alone, German lubricant, Liqui Moly, partnered with the Chicago Bulls; the Rockets teamed up with Chinese bitcoin miner, BitMain; and Qatar Airways landed a deal with the Brooklyn Nets.

4. Turn Up the Volume: In something of a sponsorship rarity for Apple, subsidiary Beats by Dre made waves in September by becoming the official headphone partner of the NBA, replacing category incumbent Harman. Since then, Beats has followed that deal up with several team tie-ins including as new partnerships with the 76ers and Lakers. Not to be outdone, Harman added the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat to current team deals with the Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks and Boston Celtics.

5. eSports: Props to the NBA for having first mover advantage when it comes to the explosion of eSports. The league, and its teams, have been ahead of the curve with promoting eSports to their fanbases. As non-endemic brands, from Monster Energy to Boxed Water, increasingly wet their appetite for eSports, look for more cross-over synergy between the NBA teams and their eSports affiliates this season.

For more on NBA off-season sponsorship moves filter deals by the NBA property genre at SponsorPitch.com/deals or download our NBA sponsorship report at SponsorPitch.com/reports. Happy 2018-19 tip-off!