As the NBA’s viewership and revenue have increased over the last several years, its All-Star Weekend has become an enormous platform for advertising. As the number of endorsements increased, the weekend has become a promising event for advertisers, increasing the event’s financial impact on the league and the host city.
The influx of tourists and basketball fans is invaluable to the host city. Sponsored activities and parties occur all weekend, and the host city becomes the gathering place of the world’s best basketball players.
In each of the last three years, all of the advertising slots were sold out before the weekend began, with 30-second slots selling for $250,000 on average.
Toronto’s 2016 All-Star Weekend was a huge financial win for the NBA and Toronto, as Forbes reported that tapping into international markets helped increase the league’s revenue to over $5 billion in 2015. Toronto’s All-Star Weekend last year marked the first time the league held the weekend outside of the United States.
Somewhere between $80–100 million of revenue was generated in Toronto that weekend, and NBA Canada gained six major sponsors in the 18 months leading up to the event.
This year in New Orleans, Louisiana, sponsors set up promotional activities to engage fans throughout the weekend. The league’s newest sponsor, Jack Daniels, hosted a hospitality event, and Mountain Dew hosted a 3-on-3 game at Champions Square. These are just two of a number of examples of All-Star related events held throughout the city.
The choice for this year’s location held strong social implications. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver chose to move the host city from Charlotte, North Carolina to New Orleans after the former city’s state passed the House Bill 2 (HB2), which requires transgender people to use the washroom that accords with the gender on their birth certificate, not their gender identity.
Despite the fact that Louisiana is still one of several states that have considered similar legislation and HB2 is currently pending House appropriation there, the changing of cities can still be viewed as a condemnation of North Carolina’s actual adoption of the legislation.
Marketing consultants believe the decision to move cities was meant to promote the NBA’s ethos of acceptance and avoid possible protests or social media outcry that would have threatened potential sponsorships in Charlotte.
NBA President of Social Responsibility and Player Programs Kathy Behrens explained, “It’s important for us to have our All-Star game in a city that’s welcoming to all of our participants and guests.”
Once the law was passed and the NBA withdrew its plans, Charlotte lost a weekend that attracts thousands of tourists, sponsorship revenue, and national exposure.
According to North Carolina Senator Jeff Jackson, the move was a “$100 million hit to the city of Charlotte and the state.”
“A lot of that money would go to schools, health care and roads,” continued Jackson. “We’ve sacrificed all of that for [former North Carolina Governor Patrick] McCrory’s social agenda. He would rather pander to his base than fix an obvious mistake that has major consequences.”
North Carolina Senator Joel Ford believes the NBA’s decision will likely have a “trickle down effect” on other sporting enterprises who might hold future events in Charlotte.
The NBA explained that its “willingness to consider coming back… will be severely impacted unless HB2 is overturned.” The city’s ability to host future NBA events will depend on whether or not they want to keep HB2 in place.
Many players vocally supported the NBA’s emphasis on acceptance. Kevin Durant tweeted: “I respect the choice. Discrimination of any kind cannot be allowed.” Jason Collins, the NBA’s first openly gay athlete, tweeted: “The NBA has set the best kind of example.”
Regardless of the league’s financial growth over the last five years, the 2017 location switch of its All-Star Weekend marks a social use for their economic clout.
Fans may get annoyed with the overwhelming presence of advertising, but in this case, the All-Star Weekend and its advertising have served a larger purpose, due to the NBA choosing to use its growing influence to take a stand for LGBT rights, a topic that is not often spoken about in the sports world.
Simply: if the NBA had not taken this stance, many fans would never have known what HB2 is.