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NBA Playoff Ads Nearly Sold Out as Post Season Launches on ESPN, TNT

Matisse Thybulle #22 of the Philadelphia 76ers attempts a shot while being guarded by Buddy Hield #24 of the Indiana Pacers in the third quarter at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on April 05, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Demand for advertising in the NBA playoffs is soaring (Image credit: Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Riding a hot sports market after a regular season in which ratings were up 19%, Disney Ad Sales and Turner Sports report high demand and near sellouts for the NBA playoffs, which started Tuesday night on TNT.

“We are extremely well sold, particularly in the conference finals and finals,” said Deidra Maddock, VP, sports brand solutions, at Disney Ad Sales. “We are very pleased with where we are and high ratings are always a great story to have.”

Also: ESPN Gearing Up For NBA Playoffs After Hot Regular Season

Maddock said Disney saw strong demand for ads in its NBA coverage from returning advertisers during the upfront. ESPN also found 49 new NBA advertisers in 18 new categories to buy NBA ad time–including three hawking cryptocurrencies. Other fresh categories for the NBA on ESPN include dental supplies and mouthwashes, computers and data processing equipment, pharmaceuticals, government and military, fruit juices, home workshop tools, malt beverage, streaming subscription based services and telecommunications systems.

“We believe that the reason why sports has had such a strong showing is because people are getting high-quality ratings in the windows where they want them in an environment that’s friendly for their brands. And the ratings growth in the NBA just reinforces the point.”

Similarly Turner said its NBA playoff inventory is very well sold, with 120 total advertisers buying ads in playoff coverage. Turner said prices are up by double digits, with individual advertisers spending more than a year ago, which will produce a record level of NBA playoff revenue on Turner platforms.

"Upfront pricing for the NBA was very high coming out of last summer," said Adam Schwartz, senior VP, director of video investment, sports, at Horizon Media. 

Advertiser interest in the NBA topped the sports market, including the NFL, for the first time during the upfront, Schwartz added.

If NBA ratings stay high during the playoffs, the networks will be able to sell the commercials now being held back as potential makegoods and get prices modestly higher than upfront, he said.

According to Kantar, NBA games on all networks drew $255.9 million in TV ad revenue from Oct. 18 to Jan 31. A year ago, the COVID-affected full regular season drew $586.8 million in ad revenue.

Last year’s Play-In Tournament attracted ad revenues of $60.4 million. The Playoffs generated $885.7 million in ad spending and the Finals were worth $197.5 million

The top spending categories for Turner are automotive, telecom, insurance, financial and business services and restaurants/fast food.

The fastest growing category is sports betting. Other categories showing strong growth include telecom, financial/business services, apparel and beverages.

Also: Disney Tells Sports Sponsors To Put Extra Mustard on Their Pitches

Disney has Mountain Dew, which sponsored NBA Countdown during the regular season, sponsoring the show on ESPN during the playoff. When Countdown is on ABC, its sponsor is Chime from the first round through the Eastern Conference Finals. During the NBA Finals, Doordash takes over as sponsor of NBA Countdown.

Chime also sponsors NBA Courtside.

Meta Quest is ESPN’s sponsor for the play-in tournament, a deal done together with the NBA. The first round is presented by Mountain Dew and the conference semifinals are presented by Chipotle. The Eastern Conference Finals are presented by AT&T 5G and the Finals are presented again by YouTube TV.

As a whole, ESPN’s postseason coverage is presented by the Google Pixel phone.

Google Pixel is presenting NBA Playoff coverage on Turner. AT&T is the presenting sponsor of the Western Conference Finals on TNT CarMax is presenting TNT’s NBA Tip-Off pregame show. American Express presents the halftime report and Kia presents Inside the NBA. 

Meta Quest also sponsors the Play-In games on Turner.

Maddock said that Disney is seeing strong linear sales and digital sales as well, plus addressable ads in the ABC feed leading up to the Finals. “We’re seeing strong demand in the addressable inventory,” she said. “We’re encouraging advertisers to consider being in both places.” ■

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.