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Riches of a Rivalry: the NBA Finals

2 minute read | June 2018

As fans and pundits debate whether the Cleveland Cavaliers-Golden State Warriors rivalry is good for basketball, an analysis of several Nielsen Sports metrics shows that the last three NBA finals pairings have been beneficial for the teams, players, sponsors and fans.

This NBA season marks the fourth consecutive time that the Cavaliers and Warriors have met in the finals. And while both teams have been in the league for decades (since 1970 and 1946, respectively), they’ve each experienced fan base growth of several million people since 2014—the last year before the four-time NBA finals streak began.

But the Cavaliers-Warriors NBA finals rivalry hasn’t just been a boon for the teams themselves. It has also enhanced the marketability of star players LeBron James and Stephen Curry. Nielsen’s N-Score talent tracker quantifies fan perceptions of athletes, actors, musicians, etc. Since 2014, James’ N-Score has risen by 4 points, and Curry’s has gone up by 10. This season, just one point separates them (76 and 75, respectively).

Today, James and Curry are the first and second ranked NBA players by N-Score. James has a league-high N-score of 76, fueled by awareness that exceeds Curry’s by 29 points. But Curry’s scores for likeability and wholesome image are well ahead of James’, which close most of the gap that James gains with higher notoriety.

Sponsors have cashed in on prime television exposure during the past three Cavaliers-Warriors NBA finals appearances, with nearly $460 million in combined Quality Index (QI) Media Value, according to a Nielsen Sport24 analysis.

2016 was the biggest year, when the NBA finals stretched to seven games. A total of 169 brands appeared on screen, receiving just under $200 million in exposure, evidence that both teams and the league reap benefits from a seven-game series.

Sponsors also get exposure through the teams’ social media platforms. The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers lead the NBA in the number of interactions with fans on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

The two teams have received more than 680 million combined likes, comments, shares and retweets in the past calendar year.

While only one team will hoist the NBA Championship trophy in 2018, the dynasty pays dividends to all of those involved.

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