NBA Teams Increasingly Leverage Digital to Sell Brand Sponsorships

Houston Rockets are the latest

The Houston Rockets and ZTE are unveiling an exclusive deal where the China-based telecom equipment brand will appear via digital ads, social media, email, TV, in-game activations and out-of-home billboards with the basketball franchise, which tips off its preseason schedule tonight.

While sports sponsorships are old hat, their increasingly digital nature—where teams leverage everything from their Facebook pages to their players' Twitter accounts—is an emerging trend.

To sweeten the pot for ZTE, the Rockets are employing their young star, Chandler Parsons, who will post on his social media pages for the brand while making several public appearances. The team's Facebook and Twitter account will also push the brand throughout the 2013/2014 NBA season.

N. Andrew Elliott, a ZTE marketing exec, said, "This is the company’s first major direct-to-consumer push in the U.S."

Indeed, more and more brands seem to be using sports franchises to break the ice with consumers. Take the Brooklyn Nets, for example, which sold naming rights to Barclays for their stadium last year. The British financial services brand is attempting to gain traction in the U.S. through hoops.

And last month, the Nets sold a cross-platform sponsorship to little-known-but-successful SecureWatch24, a security technology company that hopes to expand its New York City area business. Adorama, a cameras retailer, has had similar aims with the New York Giants for the last year.

In terms of the aforementioned NBA teams, it doesn't hurt that both the Rockets and the Nets are expected to field good teams this year. Everyone loves a winner.

Unfortunately, the same can't be said of the NFL's struggling Giants this year so far.