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NBA and Bacardi: League's First Liquor Ad Deal a Smart Move

By Richard Kinsey

The NBA’s foray into the spirits sponsorship category will not only have a big affect on the league and its teams, but it will also mean changes for the other three major leagues in the near future, as well.

The league’s three-year, seven-figure deal with Bacardi will include TNT playoff coverage, NBA TV and TNT ad spots, WNBA and D-League marketing rights. Bacardi will also use the partnership to activate several sweepstakes and promotions in bars and restaurants around the country, as well as on an NBA linked age-appropriate site, according to Sports Business Journal.

Bacardi’s main focus for the sponsorship is to grow its Bacardi Gold brand and increase awareness of the company’s non-clear rums.

A partnership with the NBA is a great fit because of the league’s strong ties with the 25-up age demographic. Bacardi’s active involvement with all three NBA entities will reach a majority of target consumers. The deal will also open up opportunities to grow the brand through further sponsorships in team facilities with the ability to leverage those sponsorships against its NBA deal.

The spirits category could increase its influence with other leagues if more brands follow suit and take advantage of loosening alcohol marketing rules for many sports properties. Even though the beer category is closely related, the spirits market and the beer market are distinctly different.  This is true even though beer marketers might argue that greater spirits exposure will dilute beer sponsorships.

While this may pose a problem for the NFL, as Coors owns both the spirits and beer marketing rights, the NHL is currently in negotiations for a spirits sponsorship. NASCAR and The PGA Tour have both had relationships with spirits companies for several years with Ketel One vodka sponsoring the PGA since 2005.

As for the initial influx of spirits deals, leagues should remain careful with whom they do business with, so as not to upset any existing relationships. However, as spirit partnerships increase with more traditional marketing, it could open the door for a spirit brand to take the lead in sports marketing for the entire alcohol category. Keeping beer and spirits separated is in the best interests of the leagues to create the most value for themselves, as well as their sponsors, but the rise in interest to use sports as a marketing platform with spirit makers can’t be ignored.

Smart spirits sponsorship deals by teams and leagues will have everyone partying.

This piece was originally published on the Sports Agent Blog.


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