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NBA expand international sponsor limit to ten this year

Franchises previously allowed just three international partners outside of the US and Canada.

20 October 2022 Josh Sim

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  • South Korea, Germany, Australia and Brazil all seen as expansion markets for the NBA teams
  • Rakuten reported a 47% increase in brand recognition since inking deal with Warriors

The National Basketball Association (NBA) has confirmed the expansion of its International Team Marketing Plan (ITMP), allowing franchises to sell more sponsorships outside of the US and Canada.

Previously limited to three deals per team, the league has now confirmed to Sportico that it will now allow up to ten. The additional sponsorships are permitted provided they do not come into conflict with current NBA international commercial deals or any protected categories belonging to NBA China partners, which are covered by a bespoke arrangement.

Stacy McWilliams, the NBA’s senior vice president of team marketing and business operation, told Sportico: “The expansion has allowed [teams] to put forward a thoughtful approach in how they’re investing and what deals they’re looking at.”

With the restrictions relaxed, NBA teams are now able to offer prospective partners extensive marketing on digital and social media platforms, as well as additional content off the court.

According to McWilliams, NBA franchises are targeting nations such as South Korea, Brazil, Australia and Germany as potential markets for new lucrative deals. It is estimated that about 80 per cent of NBA teams already have ITMP deals in place, with several having more than one partner.

Chinese companies can also be approached for prospective agreements, despite the criticism sent towards the league and its owners for its extensive commerce dealings in a country with well-known human rights issues. ESPN earlier this year reported that more than US$10 billion has been invested in China by the NBA’s principal owners.

SportsPro says…

The move to expand the number of international partners allows teams to tap into new revenue sources, while also creating growth for the NBA financially and in terms of fan engagement. It is also attractive for brands outside of North America who can use the NBA to build their profile.

Perhaps the partnership that most NBA teams would most like to replicate is the Golden State Warriors’ successful deal with Japanese ecommerce platform Rakuten. The jersey patch sponsor deal, which was first signed in 2017 and is worth a reported US$20 million annually, was recently extended on a multi-year renewal.

Rakuten has said its brand recognition in the US has expanded by almost 47 per cent since partnering with the Warriors. While on a recent preseason tour of Japan, Warriors president and chief operating officer, Brandon Schneider, said on the partnership: “There are six million NBA fans here in Japan, of which one in six is a Warriors fan. [The] Warriors are the biggest team in the country and Rakuten gets credit for that. No question.”

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