Three Examples of Great Co-Brands with the NBA, NFL, and MLB


Happy October! Are you ready for some football . . . baseball . . . and basketball? This is the month when Major League Baseball (MLB) is heating up with the start of the playoffs, the National Football League (NFL) is in full swing, and the National Basketball Association (NBA) launches its 2016-17 season. The popularity of the NBA, NFL, and MLB also creates some interesting opportunities for businesses to build their brands. After all, professional sports games are high-profile events that attract large audiences. Through their co-brands with the NBA, NFL, and MLB, businesses ranging from Adobe to UGG are teaching the events industry how to engage audiences by capitalizing on the moment. Here are three examples.


Just in time for the start of the NFL season, UGG has created a series of advertisements that have some fun with New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady, whose season started with a four-game suspension owing to his involvement in the Patriots’ “Deflategate” cheating scandal. A year ago, Brady had posted on Facebook a photo of himself watching TV wearing UGG slippers. That post achieved more than 212,000 likes and 11,000 shares. UGG recognized a good thing when they saw it. One of the company’s new ads depicts actor and erstwhile country singer Jeff Bridges serenading Brady with a gentle acoustic guitar song while Brady dozes blissfully in a pair of UGGs. Then Bridges turns up the song’s tempo suddenly, ruining Brady’s reverie. UGG scores points for capitalizing on controversy with the Deflategate scandal — and having a little fun with the oh-so-serious NFL.

Adobe Systems

Meanwhile, Adobe Systems is relying on the launch of the 2016-17 NBA season to show that a computer software company can be funny. A new advertisement, “Billion Dollar Contract,” depicts the $1 billion signing of a fictional professional basketball star named Anton Miller, which goes awry while all the participants struggle to sign the paperwork for a make-believe team, the Cincinnati Sabers. While Sabers officials spend an interminable amount of time wading through a mountain of paperwork, a rival team from San Jose messages Miller a competing contract on his mobile phone. Exasperated, Miller uses Adobe e-signature to sign the online contract with San Jose. The spot lampoons the dramatic, high-profile signing of NBA stars while demonstrating how efficient and quickly paperwork can be handled with online signatures. Adobe gets props for taking what could have been a boring topic — the value of an e-signature — and having fun with it through an NBA tie-in.


While other brands create clever ads, Airbnb creates an experience. The popular online marketplace for home rentals relies on professional sports teams to offer interesting lodging promotions. For instance, Airbnb partnered with Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox to provide an overnight stay for a lucky guest at Fenway Park. Not to be outdone, the NBA’s Chicago Bulls worked with Airbnb to provide fans the chance to hang out with Bulls’ retired star Scottie Pippen at the United Center in Chicago, spend the night, and watch the team practice before a game. And, in a “can-you-top this?” response to baseball and basketball, the NFL Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos are running an Airbnb promotion that awards fans with a barbeque at the home of Broncos players Matt Paradis and Max Garcia. These promotions work because they deliver on the Airbnb promise to provide interesting, alternative lodging for travelers. What can be more interesting than staying overnight at one of the most famous baseball stadiums in the United States or spending time with sports stars?

The NBA, NFL, and MLB are certainly not the only big-time sports and entertainment organizations that inspire businesses to generate buzz and audience loyalty. But they’re three examples that stand out because of their willingness to allow other companies to have a little fun with reputations through third-party branding. What are some of your favorite examples of engaging sports co-brands?

Image source: UGG YouTube channel

We Love Live. For a complimentary 30-minute consultation on how to build your brand and inspire an audience through events and communications, please contact Brian Duffy by calling 630.427.4235 or by emailing


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