Quenching the thirst
This week, the announcement of a multi-year partnership sees the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) minor league rebranded as the all-new Gatorade League (G-League), making it the first U.S. league to be named solely after a sponsor.
The NBA has, for over 70 years, dominated the American tradition of high-octane sports and preeminent super leagues. Boasting record breaking salaries and swelling sponsorship deals with brands such as McDonald’s, Adidas and Anheuser-Busch, the organisation has, since the mid-1980s, maintained its closest partnership with sports-beverage specialists, Gatorade.
Known as the D-League (Development League) since its inception in 2001, the introduction of the minor league began with eight teams. By 2005, the former commissioner of the NBA, David Stern, had bolstered the team number up to 15. A decade later, the NBA’s D-League manifested the quintessential minor league farm system – with several D-League teams affiliating with the NBA’s 30 principal teams – mirroring the example of its counterparts, Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Football League (NFL).
The deal marks a new vantage point in the expansion of both organisations, with Gatorade, owned by PepsiCo, gaining licence to naming rights and wider intellectual property. In return, the partnership allows G-League players to develop their skills in the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI), showcased in a promotional video announcing the new partnership. In addition, the partnership allows for G-League branding to take full effect, with implementation featured in almost every aspect of the game, from on-court signage to stadium-wide banners.
Brett O’Brien, senior vice president and general manager at Gatorade, says, “We have more than 50 years of experience working with athletes and using those insights to help improve athletic performance through innovative sports fuel and equipment. This expansion of our NBA partnership is a great opportunity to not only work with the elite athletes of the NBA G-League, but also continue to lead the evolution of basketball performance.”
However, despite neither party releasing financial information at this point, the new deal solidifies the sharp focus of sponsorship for the NBA, an organisation that, in its 2015-16 season, spent $799m on sponsors deals and plays host to players like Lebron James receiving lifetime sponsorship contracts. The G-League aims to open further doors for the NBA’s growth, yet as recent collaborations with Nike, Stubhub and Blue Diamond Growers see the NBA open jersey sponsorship deals for the first time in the organisation’s history, the question of whether the introduction of the G-League manifests money-focused proliferation or quality-focused upscaling is sure to add more excitement to the 2017-18 season.