No Slam Dunk: McD's Returns to TNT, but Corona Drops Clippers

Corona Dumps Sponsorship Despite NBA Sanctions on Sterling

Credit: NBA/Clippers

McDonald's is returning to advertise on Los Angeles Clippers NBA playoff telecasts on TNT. However, Corona is dumping its team sponsorship of the club following the scandal over racist comments attributed to Clippers owner Donald Sterling. And others including Red Bull are attaching strings to their deals.

The Golden Arches yanked its planned national advertising from last Tuesday's telecast of game five in the Clippers' series against the Golden State Warriors to protest Mr. Sterling's alleged comments.

But McDonald's, which is not an actual sponsor of the team, was back in the rotation for TNT's telecast of the Clippers' game seven win Saturday night. And the nation's largest fast food chain plans to run ads during TNT's coverage of the Clippers' Western Conference semifinal series vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder.

"We resumed all advertising starting with game seven and moving forward," said Max Gallegos, the Long Beach, Calif.-based marketing director-Southern California for McDonald's USA.

Lisa McComb, a national McDonald's representative, said the chain hadn't planned to advertise nationally in game six, so no action was taken, but did run ads in game seven.

McDonald's decision to pull out of game five -- just before NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Mr. Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million – was made by the client, not by its ad agencies, Ms. McComb added.

She declined to comment on future ad plans.

Samsung, a league-wide sponsor, also announced plans to pull its ads from game five. But Samsung changed its mind after Mr. Silver dropped the hammer on Mr. Sterling with a punishment that exceeded predictions.

Not back to normal
Unfortunately, it's not business as usual for Mr. Sterling's Clippers franchise, which saw more than a dozen team sponsors flee in protest last week after his comments became public.

The NBA's swift and strong response was not enough to convince Corona to restore its sponsorship with the Clippers.

The beer brand, which had initially suspended its sponsorship of the franchise, is now ending the deal, which includes signage on basketball hoops at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

"Our sponsorship with the team will be terminated and we are going to wait to see what happens to the ownership," said Jim Sabia, chief marketing officer of the beer division at Constellation Brands, which owns Corona in the U.S., in an interview. "We will not restore our sponsorship with the team as long as Donald Sterling is still the owner."

Corona will continue to advertise during national NBA telecasts, he said.

Strings attached
Some sponsors such as Red Bull and Yokohama Tire are coming back -- but with conditions.

Red Bull said it would come back as long as the Clippers agreed to donate 50% of the sponsorship dollars for the balance of the 2014 post-season to charity and channel all team profits into basketball operations.

"Red Bull is excited to move forward with the Clippers organization and support its partner athlete, Blake Griffin, his teammates, coaches and staff in their pursuit of the NBA championship," said Red Bull representative Paul Yoffe in a statement.

Ditto for Yokohama. The tire company told TMZ it will return as long as half of the sponsorship goes to charity.

Others team sponsors as Mercedes-Benz' Southern California dealer group are still not convinced.

"We applaud the decisive action taken by the NBA and we're evaluating how we'll go forward," said Mercedes spokeswoman Diedra Wiley.