The NBA 2017-2018 regular season was filled with records. Some of the league records include: the most three-pointers made, a tied record for most individuals with 50-point games, and the highest effective field goal percentage (52.1%). Lebron James broke the record for the oldest player to average a triple-double for a month and Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons was the first rookie with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists, 50 blocks and 50 steals in a season.
The NBA has seen great success off the court as well, reporting one of its best years in media viewership and game attendance. This is especially impressive given the struggles of other major sports, such as the well-publicized decline in NFL viewership.
The 2017-2018 regular season was the most viewed TV season in 5 years, with viewership up 8% from last year. Ratings increased across all four networks including ABC (+17%), TNT (+13%), ESPN (+4%) and NBA TV (+1%). Average national viewing was at 1.28 million according to Nielsen versus 1.19 million across the four different networks. Breaking down viewership by age demographic, the 18-34 demographic increased ratings by 14%, and the 18-49 demographic increased by 15%. Forbes also reported strong game attendance this past season. Attendance increased for the fourth year in a row, reaching 22.1 million. The league had a high number of game sellouts (741), successfully selling 95% of all tickets available for the regular season.
With an increase in viewership and attendance comes growth in advertising revenue. Media Post confirmed ad revenues were up 11% to 698.6 million according to iSpot.tv. The top five advertisers this season included State Farm ($26.3 million), PlayStation ($18 million), Taco Bell ($17.9 million), Burger King ($16.8 million) and Verizon ($14.7 million). Just before the NBA playoffs tipped off, broadcast partners had already estimated 90% of available ad inventory sold. For the postseason, TNT and ESPN booked presenting sponsors for the first time. Hulu stepped in as the presenting sponsor for TNT, and PepsiCo’s Mountain Dew Kickstart committed as ESPN/ABC’s presenting sponsor for the playoffs.
While some brands have made a major impact on the television screen, others are finding new ways to get on the basketball court and close to the action of the game. This past season, the NBA introduced jersey advertising to the league. While advertising on jerseys is not a new idea, it has certainly offered brands a unique way to get in front of basketball fans and become directly associated with the competitive teams and top players. The NBA predicted this new revenue stream to bring in an additional $100 million for the 2017-2018 regular season. While the NBA was initially hesitant on whether or not to proceed with ads on jerseys, it has so far proven to generate a great return for brands. Forbes estimated the jerseys to produce $350 million in value to the sponsors on social media alone.
As we approach the finals, the NBA is sitting in a very enviable position. Properties that are seeing increased ratings and attendance, especially among a younger A18-34 audience, are few and far between. Leading into the 2018-19 season, we fully expect that the NBA will look to leverage this growth both nationally and in local markets.