Hulu Signs as Sponsor of NBA Playoff Series on TNT

As the National Basketball Association playoffs begin, Hulu has signed a deal with Turner to be the presenting sponsor of TNT’s First Round, Conference Semifinals and Western Conference Finals coverage.

Hulu also recently signed up as the presenting sponsor for the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Hulu’s aggressive push into live sports sponsorships is designed to amplify its live sports offering and drives awareness of Hulu as the best way to watch the biggest sporting events of the year live.

Viewers will see a number of spots -- including custom branded content featuring NBA on TNT’s popular talent . A “Presented by Hulu” tag will appear on NBA on TNT’s opening graphic cards, as well as custom billboards and scoreboards throughout each game during all three playoff rounds.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Related: NBA Season Sets Records For Subscriptions, Social

ESPN and ABC have the NBA’s Eastern Conference Playoffs and ABC will air the Finals. YouTube TV has already done a deal to become the presenting sponsor of the NBA Finals.

Jon Diament, executive VP of ad sales for Turner Sports says that the over-the-top technology and distribution companies have become big sports advertisers.

“That’s a nice new category,” he said. “Whether it’s MLB—they sponsored the playoffs and World Series—or the NBA, the ways they’ve been getting involved in the sports space has been very good news.”

The NBA is coming off strong season that produced higher ratings and increased ad revenues. “We exceeded our goals, both on ratings and revenues, so the league continues to do well,” says Jon Diament, executive VP for Turner Sports ad sales. The annual All-Star Game, this year held in Los Angeles with a new players-pick-the-teams format, produced record setting revenue for Turner, he adds.

When NBA Playoffs start, Turner is already nearly sold out and is adding a few new pages to its advertising playbook.

During games, when a 60-second timeout gets called, Turner has sold the entire break to single advertisers, who fill the time with their own content. Among the advertising buying the ad-pod replacement units are Straight Talk Wireless.

Other advertisers will be doing branded content programs during the playoffs, including Mountain Dew Kickstart, which is running a rising stars content series produced by former NBA star Baron Davis. Jack Daniels will have a locally focused branded content series called Hometown Strong.

Kia will be doing social media voting for playoff most valuable players using a #KiaMVP hashtag that will promoted on air and online.

McDonald’s and 5 Hour Energy will be working on programs with Turner’s Bleacher Report unit. McDonald’s will be presenting sponsor of BR’s Game of Zone’s series, which mashes up the NBA and HBO’s Game of Thrones. New episodes will air during the playoffs and the sponsorship will be promoted on air and online. 5 Hour Energy will be integrated into the House of Highlight feature on BR’s Instagram account, which has nearly 9 million followers and draws comments from both fans and players.

Some NBA on TNT playoff games will be streamed in virtual reality and Intel is the official VR partner for the NBA on TNT. Pay TV authenticated users will have access to the games for no additional charge. No additional branding/sponsorships beyond Intel will be a part of the app experience for the playoffs.

NBA Playoff advertisers include league official sponsors and other season long NBA advertisers, so by the time the playoffs roll around Turner has a nice base of inventory already sold, Diament said.

ESPN and ABC have the Eastern Conference Playoffs and ABC will air the Finals. YouTube TV has already done a deal to become the presenting sponsor of the NBA Finals.

Diament says that in addition to the over-the-top distribution companies, digital device makers, including mobile phone manufacturers including Apple, Samsung and LG have also been spending big on sports as the jockey for share.

On top of that, Turner is attracting marketer in a lot of traditional categories to the NBA playoffs including beers, quick-serve restaurants and apparel companies.

Turner says it is working with more than 30 marketers for in game integrations.

Other key sponsors include:

• American Express, Halftime Show presenting sponsor

• Autotrader, Tip-Off Show presenting sponsor

• Kia, Inside the NBA presenting sponsor

• State Farm Audio Assist, which consists of segments in between game action that cuts together interesting player audio picked up by courtside microphones)

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.