Can HARMAN make noise as the NBA's new official audio sponsor?

(HARMAN via AP Images)
(HARMAN via AP Images)

HARMAN International and the NBA announced a four-year partnership that will make HARMAN the official headphone, speaker and audio partner of the NBA, WNBA, NBA D-League and USA Basketball. The partnership will focus on HARMAN’s JBL brand.

The deal presents a tremendous opportunity for JBL, a lesser-known commodity in a headphones space that is dominated by Beats Audio and Bose. HARMAN becomes the NBA’s first-ever marketing partner in the aforementioned categories, making it a slam dunk for the league.

The partnership goes beyond headphones, as HARMAN will produce NBA-licensed audio products, as well as provide JBL and other HARMAN products to players and coaches. The brand will have a large presence at NBA events throughout the year, including presenting the audio for the State Farm All-Star Saturday Night and during pregame introductions and the halftime show at the NBA All-Star Game.

NBA game broadcasts increasingly feature the player’s locker room entrance, and fashion-forward pregame attire has become a spectacle. There’s a great opportunity for JBL given the headphone’s role as a functional accessory in every player’s ensemble. Commissioner Adam Silver alluded to this in yesterday’s press conference:

However, can this deal truly be effective for JBL if the league’s best players aren’t required to wear the company’s product? During the World Cup in Brazil, Beats Audio wasn’t a tournament sponsor yet stole the show from Sony, a FIFA partner.

In the NBA, Beats Audio is endorsed by the biggest star, LeBron James. LeBron won’t convert, but will other marquee stars switch over to JBL products? It’s hard to imagine anyone on the Cavs taking advantage of the new JBL deal without some warranted ribbing from the team’s best player. Further complicating things, some players also have headphone endorsement deals in place. After inking this partnership, one wonders if JBL will commit additional marketing dollars to high-profile NBA player endorsers.

Given the NBA’s current health, the sterling start to the Adam Silver era and the myriad problems currently surrounding the NFL, a deal with the league itself looks highly attractive. For JBL, marketing and activation around the league and its stars in order to truly take advantage of this groundbreaking partnership will continue to be a work in progress.

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