Game On! 3 Sponsorship Aspects to Watch for During the NBA & NHL RTP

This article is the first in a 2-part series that examines the business of sports in the NBA and NHL RTP (Return To Play). The second article will provide an analysis and breakdown of the in-game presentation and sponsorship activations.

The wait is over. After 5 months of unprecedented global COVID-19 lockdowns, the NBA

and NHL are set to return to play in their respective league bubbles - all within the heightened context of societal change, racial awareness and economic upheaval.

While millions of relieved fans tune in to live game broadcasts and streaming platforms, it's time for sports professionals to watch with considered eyes as the business of sports takes on a new form.

Here's the understatement of the year - we have never seen anything like this before.

Here are the top 3 things to watch for from a sponsorship perspective with the NBA and NHL RTP:

  1. In-Game Activations: Typically, the NBA has led the way for in-game presentation. But perhaps the NHL can seize the moment. What's the same and what's different regarding the physical play space? Does the environment offer any new opportunities or has it limited previous? What do you think could be improved or added?

  2. Social Media Integrations: Social has always connected distributed fans (especially on Twitter) to the in-game experience, but more so now than ever before. Live access is impossible right now so the fan landscape is flat without live attendance and bars and restaurants likely unable to hold the same atmosphere as they one did. We are all going to be on screens and only screens. How are partners and sponsorships being activated on social channels? How are players and sponsors integrated into pre/post-game interviews and "bubble life" content?

  3. Who is Innovating? Which teams and their partners are serving up a new approach or new ways of activating? Which brands are involved? What is grabbing the share of conversation? What new models might be emerging?

As much as everyone (myself included) is excited and just plain happy to see the return of the NBA and the NHL - it's time to get to work. We're about to get a crash course on what the new normal is for these leagues and no one STILL knows how the 2020-2021 seasons will be structured in terms of timelines, attendance or locations. So what happens here may have lasting impact and change aspects of the business as we know it.

You can bet the NFL is paying very close attention - you should be, too.

What are you looking forward to? What did you see that stands out?