Team Marketing Ruminations–NBA FCI & More

Tidbits, Thoughts & Tips around sports business…

News, notes and nuggets from our Publisher for mid-Oct, 2020

2019-20 NBA Fan Cost Index® Now Live

Congrats to the Los Angeles Lakers on their NBA Championship earlier this week. Special nod to owner Jeanie Buss for becoming the first female owner to win an NBA Championship.

Like the Lakers, we here at TMR have completed our arduous annual NBA journey: the NBA Fan Cost Index®. Once again the New York Knicks hold on to the most expensive mantle

We’ve had a ton of interest in our 2020 MLB Fan Cost Index® and TMR‘s look at projected “gross gameday fan revenue” (GGFR) for baseball. At the beginning of July, Rob Manfred and MLB owners bit the bullet and moved forward with a fanless 2020 season. By scrapping fan attendance for 81 home games, roughly $5 billion in ticket, F&B, merch, parking revenues went POOF!

Before 2020 MLB FCI work had started, and well before the pandemic was even a twinkle in Donald Trump’s eye, we were busy gathering NBA team FCI-related costs. Through a ridiculous amount of twists and turns (see below) in NBA world, we have finally completed the NBA FCI and with it,  GGFR calculations for each team.

A preview: even with teams “only” losing between 5-10 home games, the projected GGFR hit for each team is more than $22.8 million.

Now, let’s not throw owners a pity party yet. The “Big 4” leagues (sorry MLS), all continue to rake in huge TV dollars. And sadly, we’ve seen many billionaire owners quickly cut bait with staff, not just furloughts, but full-on layoffs. All to save a few shekels in the short run.

NBA Keeps Moving Along…

I think we all agree that we’ve had more than enough of 2020 already.

Especially Adam Silver and the folks at the NBA. They got a three month jump start on the dumpster fire that is 2020 with the Daryl Morey China Tweet Disaster and as I talk about in our NBA FCI analysis, that was followed by hand-wringing over TV numbers, injuries to stars young and old and the loss of two NBA legends, David Stern and Kobe Bryantin the same month. Oh and then still barely 70 days into 2020, COVID-19 punked us all.

Once the league had established its safe—and ultimately 100 percent successful—COVID-free “bubble” at Disney‘s Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, league attention could shift to engaging all those basketball-hungry fans suddenly unable to attend games.

The NBA boasts a younger, more tech-savvy fan than most leagues and that, combined with having a track record of years of deep engagement across all digital platforms, has been parlayed into a sustained fanbase. Oh, and 1.9 billion followers across social media.

Teams set out to engage season ticket members along with all hoops fans across all social media channels from the earliest days of the shutdown. We saw team social media folks sharing behind the scenes content and messaging (on both virus safety and every day life) from players, coaches and team executives.

A big reason why the NBA is poised to rebound quickly? Silver and the rest of the league’s execs stuck to their principles and continued doing what they always look to do with fans and team marketing partners: communicate, engage and innovate.

Communicate, Engage & Innovate: Tech

In July, Michelob Ultra was unveiled as the new official beer partner of the NBA with the partnership to kick-off at the NBA Restart with the “Michelob Ultra Courtside” a digital experience allowing fans to appear virtually inside the arena and share in the excitement of the game. It was the breakout star of not only the bubble, but across all returning sports.

Fewer than 1 percent of NBA fans globally will ever attend a game in person. So, instead of fans feeling left out, the league and a sponsor created a virtual fan product that allowed anyone across the globe to experience the NBA.

The NBA also worked with partners such as Microsoft and Facebook‘s Oculus virtual reality platform to further utilize technology in fan engagement.

Communicate, Engage & Innovate: Broadcast

The pandemic’s restrictions not only encouraged the league to double-down on their digital/social engagement but also on enhancing the game broadcast philosophy.

In fact, the robotic cameras, unique camera angles and enhanced audio were such a hit that each will be integrated at NBA arenas going forward.

Communicate, Engage & Innovate: Incremental sponsorship

One change is approving the sale of “large abdomen practice jersey presence,” in other words, up to 12″-by-5″ of ad space on the front of team practice jerseys.

“We are always focusing on how to be innovative and continue to look for opportunities to create more value for fans and our partners,” says Matt Wolf, SVP, NBA Team Marketing & Business. “It is something our fans have taken notice of, and brands have taken notice of, and want to be associated with practice uniforms and practice experiences.”

No Slowing Down Footy Fans in the ‘Lou

The folks at St. Louis City SC, the MLS expansion team coming in 2023, continue to make noise with some impressive fan support. Recently, the team began taking ticket deposits and City SC beats the old 24-hour mark of 30,000 deposits in the first 15 minutes and hit the 50,000 mark before the day was over.

Since then, they’ve added Khalia Collier as VP, Community Relations, and Matt Sebek as Chief Experience Officer. Check our more on those hires and tons of others at our Oct 2020 Roster Moves page.


If you haven’t checked out our four part series on cannabis and CBD in sports business, what are you waiting for? In our latest piece, “The Sponsorship Match Game,” we look at potential brand-property matches that make perfect sense.

Have a weekend and, as always, stay fancentric friends!


Chris brings deep sports business experience to his role as publisher of TMR. He first put his sales, experiential marketing, PR, sales and valuation skills to work in sporting goods retail in 1986. He has since worked for brands and agencies across all major league sports, plus golf, college athletics, marathons and motorsports. Chris is also the proud founder of Painless Networking.