The National Basketball Association tosses its media account into review
The National Basketball Association has put its media business into review, Ad Age has learned. The review comes during a significant time for the league, which restarted its season on July 30 to an empty stadium in the so-called bubble in Orlando. The league suspended its season in March due to the pandemic but not long after its return, calls came again for the season to be paused following the recent player protest.
People close to the business say a request for proposals has been issued to several holding companies and that strategic advisory firm MediaLink is managing the review. MediaLink did not return a request for comment. Incumbent Publicis Media's Spark Foundry declined comment, but one person close to the matter says it is unlikely that the agency will compete to defend.
The NBA sent its media planning and buying duties in 2015 to Publicis-owned Starcom Mediavest Group, which included agencies Spark Foundry and Starcom. People familiar with the matter say the business has since been handled by Spark Foundry.
According to COMvergence, the league spent approximately $23.7 million on measured media in the U.S. during the 12-month period from July 2019 to June of this year. One person close to the business says that in recent years the NBA has significantly reduced its budget, which historically was in the $100 million range.
Spokespeople for the NBA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
On the creative side, the NBA has worked with Steve Stoute's Translation since December 2014. A recent campaign, however, featuring actress Issa Rae aimed at hyping up the league's restart to its season, came from the NBA's in-house team and Cartwright, the Los Angeles-based, WPP-backed shop launched by Keith Cartwright in June. Cartwright is an alum of agencies 72andSunny, BSSP, Wieden+Kennedy, The Martin Agency and TBWA\Chiat\Day.
Beginning with the Milwaukee Bucks, certain NBA teams recently boycotted their playoff games in response to the police shooting of a 29-year-old Black man, Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Washington. Blake was shot seven times in the back and is reportedly paralyzed.
All three of last Wednesday's playoff games—Bucks vs. Magic, Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers vs. Portland Trail Blazers—were rescheduled.