The Golden State Warriors continued their dominance with a relatively easy win over the San Antonio Spurs setting the team up for a record setting 73rd win on Wednesday. It at Golden State, and against a depleted Memphis team so the odds are in the Warriors favor. On the same night Kobe Bryant will play his last game in the NBA. Both games will be nationally televised with ESPN moving its schedule to accomadate both games — Warriors on ESPN and Kobe on ESPN2. There will be multiple chances for brands to activate around the games.
The NBA made sure the Warriors run at history was able to be viewed by as many fans as possible by providing the NBA Network for free to anyone who had access to the league-owned channel. The league didn’t give everyone a test run on League Pass, but there wasn’t any backlash. Now with the game switched to ESPN it could garner high ratings and allows Under Armour to activate around Steph Curry with commercials, new historic gear, a pre-planned congratulations or other events. Expect Under Armour to be prepared to leverage Curry’s role in the 73 wins almost immediately.
Nike has already planned around Kobe’s final game, and its unfortunate for the swoosh and Mamba that the Jazz v. Lakers game has been pushed to ESPN2. In the grand scheme of things the game matters very little — except to Jazz fans wanting their team in the playoffs — but Kobe is one of the top-15 greatest players in the game so it will become and event. Nike began activating as early as a few weeks ago and the game will be bombarded with branded thank-yous to Kobe.
The ratings war will be intriguing. The Lakers v. Jazz match-up will probably garner early viewers, especially as the Lakers thank Bryant for his service. Toward the end of the night it wouldn’t be a surprise if more people switch over to ESPN for the Warriors — especially if the game is close.
In any case, this is a marketing and TV execs dream. ESPN has the two biggest games of the night with essentially nothing as its competitor. Even if fans choose one game over the other it is still ESPN. Under Armour and Nike will go all out as this is a great chance for both companies to activate around their biggest personalities.
Michael Colangelo is Managing Editor of The Fields of Green and Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute.