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Hornets Ink NBA’s First-Ever Uni Ad Deal With Social Media Star

The NBA began allowing teams to sell advertising space on their uniforms in 2017. In the six years since then, we’ve seen ads for all sorts of corporations (and one charity initiative), but the Hornets are trying something this season that we haven’t seen before: They’ve just announced that they’re going to wear an ad for a snack food brand that was launched last year by a popular social media celebrity.

According to ESPN, the guy behind all of this “is believed to have the most subscriptions of any individual on YouTube, TikTok, [Twitter], and Instagram — over 350 million combined followers.”

While most teams view uni advertising as a self-contained revenue stream, the Hornets apparently believe this ad can also drive merch sales. Per Sports Business Journal:

A source within the Hornets organization, whose prior jersey patch partnership with Lending Tree recently expired, believes Feastables is the one patch “that can actually help sell merchandise, where people will say, ‘I want that jersey because I want the patch on it.’” According to sources, Lending Tree, a Hornets partner for six years, chose not to renew — leading new owners Gabe Plotkin and Rick Schnall [who recently took over ownership from Michael Jordan] “to come up with something new and different’’ to potentially grow their fanbase.

The new ad will also appear on the uniforms of the Hornets’ G League and esports affiliates. Additional info here.


Comments (29)

    While I’ve heard of him, I’ve never managed to come across one of his videos.

    As far as influencers as sponsors go, I’m already over it. I’m so numb to this corporate nonsense.

    I’m 35 and have never watched a second of any of his videos, but I’ve certainly heard of him and know that he’s all over the place when it comes to what Gen Z is into. The fact that you’ve never heard of him is probably a feature, not a bug as far as the Hornets are concerned lol

    Agreed. I’m 32 and I see his name everywhere. I’ve never watched any of his content but anyone younger than me and/or even remotely tapped in to the zeitgeist would know who he is. He has branded candy sold at Walmart.

    You’d be surprised. I work in a school and 99% of the elementary aged kids, this Mr. Beast is the only thing they talk about. They have clothing with his branding all over it and he also has a ghost kitchen setup around the country as well. He’s huge with, I’d guess the 10 to 14 crowd. Like Michael Jackson huge.

    Please don’t use the words “10 to 14 crowd” and Michael Jackson in the same paragraph.

    I’m willing to bet you’re a bit older. This isn’t for you…Gen Z and younger Millenials, however, will eat this up. If you’re over 40 you aren’t who sports cares to market to.

    I like the part where they say they “believe he has the most followers”. Seems like that would be a fairly easy thing to fact check.

    Said influencer is from Greenville, NC which is at least a connection to the org that’s slightly less soulless than other ad patches. I do genuinely believe they will sell a multitude of these by just having that patch up there with him pushing the brand. If .2% of those 300m folks buy a jersey they’ll sell 1.5m of them.

    Said influencer is from Greenville, NC which is at least a connection to the org that’s slightly less soulless than other ad patches.

    Actually, most MLB/NBA/NHL uni advertisers are based in the same region or city as the team, so there’s nothing unusual about that aspect of this deal. (Your soullessness mileage my vary.)

    “If .2% of those 300m folks buy a jersey they’ll sell 1.5m of them.”

    It’s not actually 300 million (or 350M as stated in the article) people. It could be (and is likely closer to) 70 million following on each of five platforms. (Also, 0.2% of 300M is 600K, not 1.5M.)

    It’s a bit unbalanced, most of his audience is on YT; follower counts as follows:
    – 188M on Youtube (indeed most subscribers for an *individual*, 2nd most overall)
    – 87M on Tiktok
    – 42M on Instagram
    – 24M on Twitter
    Not 300M individual people for sure, moreso 150M+, but still a lot.

    This raises a question – does anyone have any hard data on the amount of sales of merch that are *because* of the advertiser? For example, is there data showing how many Wrexham jerseys are flying out the door *because of* the United wordmark?

    No and that’s why this one stands out a bit because there’s a (weak) argument it could.

    No one buys unis for football clubs globally because of a certain sponsor (unless you maybe work for that company) – although I do know fans that prefer certain years’ designs because the execution of the sponsor is more aesthetically pleasing.

    Weird putting influencer in quotes. It’s a very viable means to make a lot of money, not some made up thing.

    My first thought as well – felt like a very 2016 thing to be doing.

    I’d also argue it’s not the correct term here (working in a space in apparel that deals with a lot of influencers). It’s more apt to call him a content creator or YouTuber, I’d say professionally “influencer” is a better label for people who’s main “content” is actually geared to telling you to buy or do certain things. e.g. A mommy blogger that posts about what gear to/not to buy is an influencer. Someone making comedy videos is a YouTuber or streamer (even if they get paid placements or launch products).

    That’s a fair point, content creator might be more apt for Mr. Beast. I worked in the video game industry around 2016 and the amount of parents that used to scoff at gaming being a viable career was shocking…putting influencer in quotes reeks of that sort of dismissal.

    Actually, Zach, I neither stated nor implied that there’s anything unviable about being an influencer, nor am I engaging in “dismissal.”

    I object to the term because it implies that influence is, as you yourself have framed it, simply a function of “mak[ing] a lot of money.” I prefer to think that influence is a function of *ideas.*

    You know who was an influencer? Jesus. MLK. Marx. Hitler (sadly). Susan B. Anthony. Martin Luther. Picasso. Like that.

    Reducing the term to selling stuff is gross. That’s why I put it in quotes — as a commentary on the term, not on the activity.

    (The use of “creator” in this context is similarly gross.)

    All of that said: The reason I referred to the guy as an “influencer” is that a few other media outlets, including ESPN, also called him that. But I see that the Hornets themselves did *not* call him that in their press release (nor did they call him a “creator”), so I’ve now changed the wording in the headline and text of this post.

    My apologies for using the wrong term (but not for putting said term in quotes).

    Replying to Zach since I couldn’t for some reason reply to Paul.

    Paul – your response really confused me. I had never heard someone called an “influencer” before the social media vernacular, and definitely not Jesus or Hitler. I get it in an incredibly literal sense but I don’t understand seeing the modern common usage as gross. That just feels a bit out of touch – anyone I know that hears influencer isn’t having their pov on MLK muddied – they know it’s just someone (typically) on social media giving advice on a topic or promoting a certain lifestyle/skill-set/etc.

    It also isn’t just defined by making lots of money for influencers or “content creators” (“creator” on its own is not really used). I follow accounts that are “influencers” or “content creators” just giving you recommendations on how to garden better, with a niche following. Or cooking tips. Or say videos about sports uniform history.

    I agree, streamer is probably the most accurate term that is platform neutral. I would never have thought to call or think of Mr Beast as an influencer. Then again I also wonder sometimes why there aren’t Uniwatch streams or YouTube videos, but I get that it’s different preferred medium.

    This is the same Mr. Beast willing to put his name on a burger “restaurant” comprised of ghost kitchens with mixed quality link

    If teams want a dollar of my disposable income, they can be advertising partners with American Motors, Bohack Supermarkets, or Expo ’70.

    So if the Hornets think this will sell jerseys, and stated this, doesn’t this hurt their negotiating? Or are they just considering this a partnership to help sell jerseys.

    Snacks logos on a sports jersey, promoting a healthy lifestyle! Better order these 6xl jerseys for your fanbase soon, Charlotte!

    I like how they call this a “collaboration” in the press release subhead. I am going to start doing the same, loudly, at the conclusion of all my future transactions.

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