After a three month lockout delay the National Basketball Association finally returned to the boards, tipping off on Christmas day with five season-opening games broadcast on three television cable networks. Millions watched as millionaires played hoops – with major sponsors, like Kia Motors America, betting heavily that the fans would tune back in.
Kia has bet heavily on the hoop hoopla. It may be the fourth ranking NBA advertiser behind T-Mobile, Taco Bell and Warner Bros-Pictures but Kia it is the biggest automobile advertiser in the game. Kantar Media noted that last year the brands expenditures were in the $17 million neighborhood, a number Sprague did not dispute.
The maker’s vice president of marketing and communications Michael Sprague telling me in an interview last week that, “The shortened season (66 games, rather than the usual 82) has not diminished the fans or their interest in the game, its players, the opportunities and sponsorships.”