The Evolving Role of Sponsorship in the NBA

Basketball is a huge sport around the world, but there is no doubt that American basketball competitions are the biggest, and most widely viewed. The NBA’s regular season games average over one million viewers, even during the regular season. Playoff games have even more viewers.

On top of this, thousands of people flock to the stadiums, buy the jerseys, and support their local team in other ways. NBA team sponsorship has grown to more than $1.4 billion per season and grew by more than $100 million between 2021 and 2023.

Gambling Sponsors

One of the reasons for the growth in sponsorship revenue in the NBA is the fact that there have been more gambling companies getting involved. 

The laws for gambling are changing and so are the regulations in the NBA. North Carolina and Vermont have recently relaxed some of their gambling laws, and playing at a casino online is now legal in many states including Michigan, West Virginia, and Indiana. Casino and sportsbook brands are quickly becoming some of the biggest NBA partners. The changing attitudes toward gambling in the US were also taken into account by the NBA when they recently changed the restrictions to allow more gambling sponsors as well as alcohol brands. 

This was an attempt to bring more revenue into the sport, and gambling sponsors already provide huge revenue in other sports such as football. Since the NBA changed the rules, gambling brands including BetMGM and William Hill have offered key sponsorship revenue.

Jersey Sponsors

As well as increasing the number of sponsors, basketball teams are embracing new forms of sponsorship. While in some sports, jersey sponsors have been normal for 20 or 30 years, the NBA was slower to embrace this form of sponsorship. The Philadelphia 76ers became the first team with a jersey sponsor in 2017, and since then there have been many other teams that have joined in with the trend. 

It was estimated that the first deal the 76ers struck for a jersey sponsor was worth $100 million, one of the larger sponsorship deals in the league. This makes sense since the Philadelphia 76ers have one of the largest market sizes, meaning higher viewerships than most of the other teams in the NBA.

The Golden State Warriors is another team to sign a big sponsorship deal, striking an agreement with Rakuten, who reportedly paid over $20 million per year to appear on the front of their jerseys. This sort of uniform sponsorship is now very popular in the basketball scene.

International Sponsorship Deals

Outside of North America, Europe has the most subscribers to the NBA’s League Pass subscription, and this has grown massively in recent years. 

Countries that have seen huge growth in viewership include Slovenia, which is partial because Slovenian superstar Luka Dončić continues to play an iconic role for the Dallas Mavericks. Slovenian subscriptions to the League Pass grew by an incredible 47% in just one year. 

What does this international appeal mean for sponsorships? Well, as proven by Rakuten sponsoring the Golden State Warriors, there is now much more international appeal for the sport, and this makes it more worthwhile for global sponsors to invest. The exposure for brands aligned with NBA teams is more significant than ever, which adds more value to the deals.

This extra money helps to support the teams taking part and has also contributed to some of the huge contracts and deals seen handed to players and managers. 

Blockchain-Related Sponsors

Blockchain and cryptocurrency sponsors have very quickly become mainstream in a variety of sports, including basketball. 

In fact, in the 2021-2022 season, was the biggest partner in the NBA. The blockchain-based fan engagement platform has close links with The Los Angeles Lakers and even sponsors a specific fan Facebook group for fans of the team. 

The Lakers are just one part of a huge network that has partnered with, as they boast deals with soccer teams such as Juventus, Manchester City, and Arsenal, plus the Portugal and Argentina national teams, and more.

Socios cleverly connects fans with the teams they love and even allows them to vote on certain issues in the club, such as if they plan to change their badge or are planning a certain type of event. Fans can potentially have a say in how things are run.


There are huge sums of money involved in sports, and American sports have massive reach globally. The sponsorship deals are continuing to grow as a result of this reach, with markets in Europe growing massively. The NBA is now very much a global sport and this is bringing global sponsors to the game. 

We’re also seeing changes in technology such as blockchain being reflected in the sponsorship deals, as well as gambling sponsors that were previously not allowed.

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