As sports leagues are restarting, there’s a whole new world to sort out not only logistically, but on the business side. Sporting events will not have any fans there to cheer their favorite teams on, at least not any time soon. So, how will they attract advertising? There are a good number of advertising trends emerging. Let’s see how those look and how consumers are likely to respond to them, thanks to AI-powered consumer and market intelligence!

As the MLB and NBA prepare to resume playing, there are new opportunities for marketers to get creative. We’ll explore how this looks for each sport, including:

  • Online viewership stats for each league
  • Creative fan engagement ideas that are in progress
  • Advertising options the NBA & MLB have in store, and what other leagues can learn from their efforts
  • Consumer response to each

And there are always important statistics to consider, including:

  • ESPN’s Michael Jordan Documentary series The Last Dance had 5.6 million viewers, which helped carry it through the pandemic
  • 59% of consumers are likely to be more loyal to brands that support causes they care about – something these sport leagues are paying attention to.

NBA is Far from Its Last Dance

Sports help unify large communities, as our teams’ victories become our own. However, much has changed since lockdown. Gone are the stadiums filled with cheering fans, replaced by couches, a T.V. screen, and the hope that one day we will cheer once more from the stands. In the meantime, there’s a lot to learn about how different factions of sports are managing. And the NBA is leading the charge.

Below, the conversation around the NBA – from their history to the draft – is all accounted for. And each cluster offers relevant and vital information to help brands understand why the NBA is seeing success in a time of draught, and how brands can emulate their winning moves.


The NBA on Social

During the pandemic, social media and TV have become brands’ primary way to advertise, and these applies to sport “brands” as well. On Facebook alone, the NBA has 38.54 million fans. This a large demographic of people all gathered in one place. They also had 15.14 million TV viewers in 2019.

From a team perspective, although the Lakers have 21.9 million fans, the Chicago Bulls have Michael Jordon.

Widely known as the game’s greatest player with stats piled through the roof, he’s a prize all on his own. He’s also the focus of a ten-part documentary series The Last Dance, which kept 5.6 million viewers riveted to their seats during lockdown. This became ESPN’s most watched documentary of all time. With no spectators, creativity has become the new sport and a powerful emerging trend, and this documentary was a slam dunk.

And just as this conversation is dying down, we see Disney step in with a powerful assist.

The Disney Bubble

Using our conversation clusters and analyzing the segment Disney Bubble, we see an interesting bit of market intelligence. While other sports are struggling, the NBA partnered with Walt Disney World to create a sports bubble in which to play their 2020 season. They’re practicing with safety guidelines that are being praised by healthcare professionals.

Additionally, the NBA will use a Disney Magic Band for contactless interactions, which is yet another important emerging trend the NBA is on top of. It functions as a hotel room key, providing access for security checkpoints and to check-in for coronavirus testing and other medical screenings.


An advertisement on its own, their attention to detail and safety is generating points from health conscience consumers – and it doesn’t require market intelligence to see that fact. Though, using social media listening, we see that taking the opportunity to focus on their fans’ concerns is paying off in well-deserved praise:


Earning worldwide exposure, Disney and the NBA are noticing huge spikes in demand for advertising. And with many sports struggling for purchase, this is market intelligence you can take to the bank.

With games on – there is money to be made by selling TV packages, of course. And as the season opens, although they won’t be in the stand, “the NBA is going to use Microsoft’s video conferencing software, Microsoft Teams, to display people’s faces on giant LED screens that’ll be placed in the stands. “More than 300 NBA fans each game will be invited to appear live on the ‘Michelob ULTRA Courtside’ 17-foot video boards surrounding the court.”


And overwhelmingly, fans approve:


Disney, Microsoft and the NBA have set the stage. But they aren’t the only ones preparing to act. Major League Baseball is preparing to swing for the fences as well.

MLB Brings Emerging Trends to Life

With 2.403 million viewers in 2019, Major League Baseball is back and in consumers direct line of sight.

Our conversation timeline tracks important segments that surround MLB, providing valuable insights using market intelligence. At the beginning of May, MLB Players dominated with talk of playing safely. And as we move into June the draft becomes the focal point. Currently all conversations point towards COVID-19 outbreaks and safety protocols.


After a lot of back and forth discussion about the 2020 Baseball season, they improved safety protocols and are ready to hit a home run in every way, including with advertising.

MLB Advertising Options

With a shortened season of only 60 games, the MLB is hustling hard. The league made a total of 10.37 billion U.S. dollars in 2019, an average of around 346 million dollars per team.  And 13.91 million fans watched the 2019 world series. Baseball offers a huge viewing opportunity for advertisers.

With the season off to a slow start though, MLB players will likely wear their advertisements. This is an approach already adopted by the NBA. They will still be using some virtual and real advertising on their fields however, with ad space strategically placed in allotted areas such as the pitcher’s mound.

And the Mets are proving they can think outside of the box here as well. They announced that fans who renew their 2021 season can get a personalized cutout of themselves that will be placed around the stadium during games. Or, for $86 dollars you can buy a cutout, and proceeds go directly to fund the team.


And the stands won’t appear empty to viewers regardless, as Fox Sports plans to broadcast games with virtual fans:


It’s this kind of creative thinking that ultimately has carried many brands through the pandemic. The Mets audience are responding in favor with emotions like Love and Happiness.


And every action a brand takes is an advertisement these days, as today’s consumer is a much more conscience consumer. Market research shows that 59% of consumers are likely to be more loyal to brands that support the causes they care about.

For example, the Mets and the Braves may have utilized social listening to guide them in their decision to remain standing during the National Anthem.


Understanding how consumers think and learning to walk that line gracefully is vital. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, we should all know it’s wise to have a Plan B. And C.

Creative advertising opportunities are everywhere, if you know where to look and how to separate actionable opportunities from shiny objects. We can help you with that. Reach out for a demo!

Premier social media analytics platform

Expand your social platform with LexisNexis news media

Power of social analytics for your entire team

Media analytics and market intelligence platform

Enrich your media analytics with social data

Media coverage for historical & real-time monitoring

Data streams & custom KPIs for advanced data science

AI, Image Analytics, Reporting Tools & more

Out-of-the-box integration with other data sources