2021 NBA Playoffs Ad Spend Rises, Viewing Recovers Vs. 2020, Down From 2019

The 2021 NBA playoffs have seen viewer interest recovering from a year ago, along with sharply improved national TV advertising dollars.

With just one or two games remaining before the NBA Finals are set to begin, the playoffs so far (May 22 through July 1) have yielded an estimated $481 million in national TV advertising spend across three networks: TNT, ESPN, and ABC, according to iSpot.tv.

That’s a 24% rise versus the NBA playoffs over the same time period in 2019 -- the most comparable period, when it was at $388 million.

In 2020, still amidst the pandemic, the NBA playoffs were delayed until late summer/early fall (August 17 through October 11) -- games that ran amidst other big-time sports franchises. Looking at the first month of NBA playoffs that year, national TV advertising was $141 million.

This year, Nielsen-measured viewership is 36% higher versus a year ago -- but still down around 9% from 2019, according to Sports Business Journal. The first round of the NBA Playoffs has averaged 3.1 million viewers across ESPN, TNT, and ABC.

ESPN and ABC's NBA Playoffs viewership is up 34% to 3,955,000 viewers across 33 games, including the NBA Play-In Tournament, according to the networks.

Similar trends exist when looking at total impressions, where across all networks the total is 21.9 billion impressions -- up from 19.1 billion in 2020 according to iSpot.tv. But this year’s results so far are lower than for 2019, when it was 30.2 billion.

Big advertisers this year include State Farm, at 405 (airings of commercials during all NBA programming); Burger King, 389; American Express, 352; AT&T Wireless, 345; T-Mobile, 343; Progressive Insurance, 317; Modelo, 304; Dominos, 241; Kia, 228; and Geico, 223.

So far, TNT is estimated to have pulled in $245.1 million in national TV ad spend, with ESPN at $168.5 million and sister ESPN network ABC at $66.1 million.

The increase in national TV ad spending this year is also due to the number of commercial airings. To date, there have been 17,863 airings of commercials (2021) versus 13,516 (2019).

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