On average, NBA playoff viewership is up 18% across TNT, ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC thanks in part to a pair of Conference final games. On May 26th, the Cavs and Magic pulled 10.1 million viewers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Championship Series on TNT - the most ever for an NBA Playoff game on cable and the most-watched cable telecast of the year. And the Lakers-Nuggets' Game 4 of the Western Conference Championship Series delivered 9.7 million viewers - the most ever for a basketball game (college or pro) in ESPN's history.
So what's driving the data? There are no doubt a multitude of factors: exciting games, compelling storylines, and perhaps even the economy. But one that may go unnoticed is the NBA's two year old advertising campaign: "Where Amazing Happens."
Debuting in 2007, the "Where Amazing Happens" commercial spots featured still photos of NBA action accompanied by a signature piano riff. The ads were also supplemented with internet banner ads, print and outdoor extensions and are streaming on Youtube, NBA.com and other online video sites.
This season, "Where Amazing Happens" commercials evolved into CGI replays of some of the most memorable moments in NBA history. By slowing down the action, the commercials highlight the drama embedded in professional basketball that may occasionally go unnoticed with the game moving at such high speeds.
According to Monitor-Plus, Nielsen's advertising tracking service, the NBA ran more 30-second spots within nationally broadcast games than any other advertiser. The league used this inventory, which is negotiated into the network contracts, to promote "Where Amazing Happens" and is expecting the promotion to help increase viewership and deliver more eyeballs to its official sponsors and network advertisers.
Whatever the reason for the ratings renaissance, a Nielsen Sportsquest survey finds that buzz in the NBA is definitely surging. As of April 2009, interest in the NBA was at it's highest point since July '07, with 33% of total persons aged 12+ identifying themselves as avid NBA fans. The data also revealed that NBA fan interest is spilling over to increased awareness for their sponsors: NBA fans are 50% more likely to name official wireless sponsor T-Mobile as a cell phone provider and 37% more likely to have a favorable opinion of Nike.
Viewership is also higher among patrons of Nike and T-Mobile. Nielsen's MRI fusion data shows that in Q4 2008, NBA viewership on TNT, ESPN, and ABC, was 47% higher among Nike Shoe wearers, and 23% higher for T-Mobile subscribers.
In a day and age where advertising campaigns often come and go very quickly, the NBA has stuck with "Where Amazing Happens" and its persistence looks like it's paying off for the league and its partners.