Advertisers Compete in NBA Playoffs

NBA fans are having déjà vu this year with a match-up in the finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the same two teams that competed for the championship in 2015. A record number of fans tuned in to the 2016 playoffs to see if in fact Stephen Curry of the Warriors would come head to head again with rival LeBron James of the Cavaliers. With such fierce competition on the line for the 2016 NBA Championship, there has been no shortage of advertisers trying to get in on the action. We took a look at who the top spenders were on original live broadcasts airing on ABC, TNT, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes during the first three rounds of the playoffs, from 4/16/16 – 5/30/16. (Note: the Finals round started on June 2nd). Our spend figures also include pre-game telecasts.

An estimated $570.0 million was spent on advertising during this period. As a comparison, the 2015-16 regular season brought in 16 percent less revenue with spend totalling $478.3 million across 147 game telecasts. Less money during the regular season however doesn’t mean fewer advertisers. 628 advertisers contributed to the regular season spend as opposed to 362 thus far during the post-season. Within this latter group are 75 marketers who did not buy national ad time during the regular season and made their first appearance during the playoffs. Prominent among these is AB InBev which thus far has invested $5.8 million behind its Budweiser brand and $9K on Michelob.

We also saw instances of advertisers who spent modestly during the regular season but emerged as big spenders for the playoffs. For example, American Express was the number seven advertiser during the regular season with $8.3 million of spending. During the first six weeks of the NBA post-season Amex was the third largest advertiser with $17.3 million of spending.

Automotive Scores

The top five advertiser categories thus far during the playoffs made up approximately 65 percent of all spend.

Automotive topped the list of big spenders with 27 different auto manufacturers contributing $83.3 million of expenditures. Four auto dealers boosted that number an additional $15.4 million. In total, auto made up 17 percent of overall spend during the period.

Though the automotive category is saturated with different advertisers, there have been standouts among the crowd. The top five auto advertisers made up 63 percent of category expenditures.

Kia has been the top spending auto advertiser, with $23.3 million invested. As an official automotive partner of the NBA, Kia featured players Blake Griffin and LeBron James in separate creatives that have run during the games. The endorsement backed creatives made up 74 percent of Kia’s overall spend while the rest went to general promotion of various vehicles like the Sedona, Optima and Sportage, along with promotion of the ‘Summer’s On Us’ sale event in both English and Spanish.



On the dealer side, has had the most spend with $15.0 million to date. The official car search engine of the NBA has spent more than any auto manufacture other than Kia. Just like Kia, Autotrader tied its creative to the NBA with the majority of airtime so far going to a creative showing highlight clips from various basketball games.


Telecom Plays Defense

Another big player in the advertising competition has been the telecom category with 16 advertisers. While telecom advertisers haven’t spent quite as much as the auto players, $76.2 million earned the category 13 percent of total advertising dollars.

Samsung has been the big winner here spending $22.4 million exclusively promoting the Galaxy S7 Edge mobile phone. The other top telecom advertisers spent substantially less than Samsung, who owned 29 percent of category spend as of May 30th.

Samsung has been using various creatives to promote benefits of the phone with heavy focus on its water resistant feature. Several creatives also included cameos from celebrity spokespeople Wesley Snipes, Lil Wayne, Doc Rivers, William H. Macy and of course NBA player James Harden.


For large and small advertisers alike, the NBA playoffs have become a crucial arena for reaching mass consumers. With a higher guarantee of reaching a live, captive audience, sporting events like these, have become an ever-growing venue for brands to seek out.

Interested in learning more about our FastSpend and creative monitoring capabilities? Contact us today for more information!

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