Life moves fast and people have things to be doing, but it didn’t stop around 12.4 million viewers in the US tuning into the NBA Finals in 2022, according to consumer and market data website Statista. The NFL also has its legion of fans and, in 2021, had averaged around 17.1 million viewers of the regular season

The NBA has a large major following internationally, especially out in Asia. In research by Statista in 2021, 63% of respondents in the Philippines, south-east Asia, were fans of the NBA. Thirty-eight per cent of respondents in China were also fans. Regarding the NFL, some 208 million people were estimated to have watched the Super Bowl LVI, possibly more, with around 121 million of these being in the US. Figures may be higher. 

Below is a comparison of the two sporting associations and in some of the aspects that reflect their popularity, plus a little discussion of sports betting in the US.

Betting on the NFL and NBA 

Anyone who would have liked to place a wager on games but wasn’t allowed to because of betting laws will have whooped with delight when the US Supreme Court determined states should decide for themselves whether to legalize sports betting. 

According to research by the Pew Research Center, around one in five adults (19%) say they’ve bet on sport in the past 12 months. This was either with friends or family, at a casino or other venue for gambling, or on a betting app. Men were more likely than women to say they had betted on sports.

Of course, people like to engage in NFL betting, and no event quite inspires people to bet like the Super Bowl, the biggest event in the US sporting calendar. This year, it was estimated that around 31.4 million adults were planning to bet on the Super Bowl between the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams. It was predicted that $7.6 billion dollars would be bet. Meanwhile, the NBA is thought to attract between $50 and $80 billion of betting each year (although some of this may not be legal).

The popularity of NFL and NBA merchandise

Naturally, fans love to wear their team’s colors or the attire of their favorite basketball player, or even just the sneakers. When it comes to sales of team jerseys in the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys top the sales, followed by the New England Patriots in second and the Pittsburgh Steelers in third. 

Out in the NBA, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers were leading the way at the start of the year in terms of most jerseys sold, followed by Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors, then Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. However, the Chicago Bulls seem to be smashing the merchandising game out of the park. Later in 2022, it’s been reported that in 28 states, the Bulls are selling more merchandise than other teams

Sponsorship of the NFL and NBA

Of course, sponsorship deals are one of the major ways the NFL and the NBA generate revenue. 

Several different companies have gotten in on NFL sponsorship, including sports betting companies, tech companies, air travel, personal finance and more. Perhaps one of the NFL’s biggest sponsorship partners is Nike, who have long had a deal with the league. The company renewed their sponsorship deal in 2020 and will provide game day uniforms and sideline apparel bearing the famous Nike swoosh logo for all 32 teams in the NFL until 2028.

In 2022, the NFL agreed to a Super Bowl half-time show sponsorship deal with Apple Music. Previously, soft drinks giant Pepsi had been the sponsor and agreed to renew their sponsorship of the NFL but without the half-time show.

Over the last decade, revenue from sponsorship deals has really grown for the NBA. Take 2010, it was around $536 million. Fast forward to 2021/22 and the association and its teams have generated as much as $1.6 billion from sponsorship deals, according to the website of Statista.

Deals for naming rights of arena and the rights to place company names or logos on players’ jerseys have been a major part of this. The cryptocurrency world has been another major element in NBA sponsorship. Partnerships with crypto companies have become the second biggest source of sponsorship in the NBA. 

International reach

International reach is one of the areas in which the NBA trumps the NFL. The association has really reached out to international audiences, whereas the efforts of the NFL haven’t been quite as concerted, although NFL games have found their way into cities such as London for fans outside of the US.

One element of the NBA strategy to build its brand globally has been the use of social media. The association has capitalized on social media to reach young people in new markets. Another has been through television rights, as the NBA has made deals with TV distributors across the world, granting the right to show NBA games in different countries and languages. A third element has been the development of NBA academies around the country, fostering an interest in basketball and in the NBA.

The NFL and the NBA are both hugely popular within the US, and they have their fans outside the nation as well. The NBA has strived a little harder to promote itself internationally, however, and achieved a little more popularity around the globe. But both organization still make big money from merchandise.