Yahoo! Rolls Out Front-Page Promotion for NBA Finals

Web portal Yahoo is promoting the fifth game of the NBA Finals with an all-day, front-page promotion designed to boost viewership of Friday’s showdown between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Through an existing marketing agreement with the National Basketball Association, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based site is advertising streaming video highlights from the first four games of the NBA finals. An ad above the portal’s content areas showcases the highlights video, in which game broadcaster NBC also receives promotional messages encouraging viewers to tune in to Friday’s game.

The NBA Finals and NBC’s broadcasting of the games also receive coverage throughout Yahoo’s Sports area — which includes features and news on the series — and Yahoo Auctions, which includes Finals and league memorabilia.

The one-day front-page promotion, which marks the first time Yahoo has featured a sports-related campaign on its home page, came about as part of broad content and marketing relationship with the NBA and WNBA, announced in September.

“When it comes to visibility on the Web, Yahoo’s home page is highly-valued real estate,” said Matt Rightmire, vice president and general manager of Yahoo’s media group. “The NBA and NBA Finals will receive tremendous global branding through this placement, helping to extend their brand to basketball fans and Internet users around the world. The NBA Finals is a pinnacle of professional sports, and we’re thrilled to be providing this unique content to our global audience.”

But the NBA and NBC promotion on Yahoo comes as the networks and sports associations are reeling from a ratings slumps — and slipping broadcast ad revenue for sports events. Many industry watchers credit the league’s lack of superstar players like Michael Jordan for what has been described as a 20 percent fall in NBA television ratings, as compared to last year’s.

As a result, the Yahoo promotion is geared to kick-start anticipation for a typically high-revenue TV sport that this year has largely failed to match past successes.

That effort is made doubly difficult with the current 3-1 lead by a commanding Los Angeles squad — prompting many to expect Friday’s match-up will be the last in this year’s Finals. That means that NBC won’t take in money from sales of a sixth and seventh game — which some industry followers believe the network needs in order to turn a profit on the series. And with L.A.’s authoritative performance during the past three games, it might be tough to convince viewers to watch on Friday, believing they already know the outcome.

But executives say they’re optimistic about the promotion, and believe that it will inspire viewers to tune in.

“Our joint effort will drive fans to catch the next installment of a thrilling NBA Finals series,” said NBA vice president Jonathan Press. “Broadcast in 205 countries and 41 languages, the NBA Finals is truly a global event which translates well with Yahoo’s large audience around the world.”

In addition to holding up its end of last year’s marketing agreement, Yahoo, stands to gain from the front-page NBA promotion, in that it’s providing links to content on its Yahoo Sports site. There, the company is aiming to sell basketball fans on its NBA and WNBA audio subscription services.

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