NBA to Sign First Tire Sponsor: Kumho Tire

Partnership Tips Off at NBA All-Star Weekend

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NBA All-Star Weekend is traditionally the league's biggest marketing event. Heading into this weekend's 2014 NBA All-Star game in New Orleans, the NBA is poised to announced its first-ever official tire sponsor: Kumho Tire.

The NBA plans to announce a multi-year marketing partnership with the South Korean tire maker today across both the NBA and NBA Development League, according to league marketing executives. The partnership tips off at NBA All-Star Weekend from Feb. 14-16, where Kumho Tire will get to slap its logo courtside and on signage.

A Korean tire company might seem like an odd fit at first glance, but the NBA's now one of the most global of the Big 5 U.S. pro leagues. Fully 25% of its players come from outside the U.S. Its games are now telecast in 212 countries.

NBA executives say they like how Kumho can help spread its brand globally. The deal continues the league's strategy of signing sponsors such as the Spanish bank BBVA Compass and British spirits marketer Diageo that operate globally, rather than primarily in the U.S. The league's also looking to partner with "challenger brands" hungry for more global market share, said Emilio Collins, the NBA's senior VP of global marketing partnerships.

"We've been targeting global companies for quite some time. BBVA, our banking partner, is a very prominent company in Spain. We partnered with them originally in Spain and the U.S. to really grow their [American] business. We've since expanded that to many regions around the world," said Mr. Collins.

"We've had other partnerships as well that started abroad…Putting aside the global story, the notion of partnering with challenger brands, and really expanding their awareness significantly through our assets and our marketing stories, is really one we embrace."

Under the deal, Kumho Tire will also be the presenting partner of the NBA D-League All-Star Game this Saturday and have its corporate logo on new All-Star uniforms worn by players, according to Brandon Snow, the NBA's VP of global marketing partnerships.

The NBA's been flirting for years with putting corporate logos on player jerseys ala European soccer teams. But the league's still not ready to pull the trigger, said Mr. Snow.

"We've had a number of discussions with our owners about it in the past. We're not considering the opportunity today. But it's certainly one we'll continue to monitor."

Kumho initially got involved with the NBA through a sponsorship deal with one of the league's marquee franchises, the Los Angles Lakers.

"Kumho Tire could not be more excited to explore new horizons with such a formidable entity as the NBA," said Harry Choi, president-CEO of Kumho Tire North America in a statement.

Kumho represents the NBA's fourth new sponsorship deal this season after Samsung, Foot Locker and Diageo. The league's other sponsors include: Nike, Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Samsung, State Farm and Taco Bell. ESPN will telecast NBA All-Star Weekend games and festivities from New Orleans this Friday through Sunday.

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