NBA Players Win Jump Ball for Marketing Deals

  • In 2018, top 5 NBA brand ambassadors created $25 million of social brand value
  • The NBA paid players $50 million in licensing royalties for the 2015-2016 season

The NBA and NBA Players Association (NBPA) renegotiated their collective bargaining agreement, granting the NBA players union the ability to craft separate licensing deals. Will the NBPA be able to meet or surpass the revenue the NBA was able to generate for its members?

Why This Matters: NBA players generate enormous amounts of value to brands. Players having the ability to control more of the monetization of that value is a positive for their future earnings. For the 2015-2016 season, the NBA paid players $50 million for deals it negotiated for them as a group. If the value that players bring to brands individually is any indication, the NBPA should be able to negotiate sizable deals for its members. In 2015-2016, players generated $333 million in brand value solely on social media. That number went up to $444 million for the 2016-2017 season. The top 5 NBA brand ambassadors in 2018, Lebron James, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Lonzo Ball, and Russell Westbrook, have created $25 million in brand value solely for their shoe sponsors.

How will the new arrangement work? The NBPA has established a marketing arm called Think450. It will be in charge of negotiating new licensing deals under the guidance of a board made up of heavy hitters across finance, media, and entertainment. These include Hollywood film financier Charles King and Citi global head of corporate and investment banking Raymond McGuire. The NBPA hopes to leverage the business expertise of Think450’s board to negotiate deals that match or exceed the $50 million players received for the 2015-2016 season.

Situational Awareness: The NBPA is not the only professional athletes association looking to figure out how to better monetize players’ brands. The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) has taken its own approach to capturing more value for its players, through venture capital. In 2016, the NFLPA formed OneTeam Collective, an accelerator that enables startups to partner with the NFLPA to test a wide range of approaches, be it licensing, product development or funding. Look out for more startups that attach their brands to those of the NFL players they work with.

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