At stake is more than $30 million in media and marketing during the fourth quarter, from footwear marketers and other licensees.
SHOE SALES DOWN
Industry reports have put sales of basketball shoes down so far this year; sales were flat in 1997.
A few undisclosed NBA sponsors have told the league they're withdrawing ad buys on the TV networks carrying game broadcasts because of uncertainty about the coming season.
The NBA and the players union reportedly will resume negotiations Oct. 8, but most exhibition games have been called off and league officials say it will take at least a month for teams to prepare for the season, scheduled for a Nov. 3 tip-off. Games and broadcasts are likely to be delayed, if not canceled.
Rick Welts, president of NBA Properties, said those "displaced" dollars, which sponsors are contractually bound to spend on the NBA, will come back at some point during the multiyear deals.
This season marks the start of NBC's and Turner Sports' four-year, $2.64 billion TV pacts. Both networks are required to pay that amount even if games are canceled.
DELAYING AD PLANS
Fila USA, the struggling No. 4 footwear brand, is delaying TV support for its Grant Hill V shoe until first-quarter 1999, fearing there won't be NBA broadcasts this fall to carry its ads. Starter Corp., a major NBA apparel licensee, is pushing back its promotional efforts until the second quarter of '99.
Champion Products, which outfits 10 teams and exclusively markets replica jerseys, is considering different options on where to run TV spots in the fourth quarter.
While apparel is weak, other niches of the NBA's licensing machine are strong, including videogames, software and toys. Yet success in those categories isn't necessarily a sign the NBA brand is strong.
"In licensing we realize we're not making it easier on anyone," said Mr. Welts. "But we're not getting calls from our corporate sponsors saying, `This is a long-term marketing problem, we're rethinking our sponsorship.' "