It may seem an unlikely pairing, but the extensive cross-marketing deal The History Channel entered into with the NBA last December has been a boon for the New York-based network. The multi-year partnership (length not released), which focuses on the basketball league’s past and involves a cross-pollination of the brands through doc programming, live events, online content and merchandise, has enabled the channel to reach out to a new group of viewers.
And these kinds of efforts seem to be paying off. Last year, the channel achieved a 30% increase in ratings. ‘People who watch sports don’t necessarily watch The History Channel,’ says Mike Mohammad, senior VP of marketing for A&E. ‘In this case, we felt we could reach a tremendous amount of men.’ More specifically, men younger than the net’s current male demographic, which averages on the mid-to-high side of the 25 to 54 demo.
Seeking a programming linchpin on which to hinge the endeavor, The History Channel commissioned NBA Entertainment to produce the one-hour documentary The Player and the Coach, which looked at how basketball athletes Red Auerbach and Bill Russell broke the color barrier in the 1960s. ‘It’s the kind of historic look at sports that viewers come to our network for,’ says Mohammad, adding that the documentary was the springboard from which other marketing components arose. One such initiative will see The History Channel as the presenting sponsor for all of the NBA’s Hardwood Classics games on NBA TV. Additionally, if there is a breaking news story on that particular net, The History Channel will get credit as the sponsor of the coverage – helping to cover basketball history in the making, as it were.
THC will also get its logos on Hardwood Classic retro jerseys and is a sponsor for the NBA Hardwood Classics Nights, which appeared in 14 different arenas across the U.S. last season. Mohammad says the network plans to do similar events next year, and discussions about a new documentary for 2005 are already underway. ‘From a marketing point of view,’ he notes, ‘it’s about branding and tune-in… This kind of partnership is about sharing assets.’