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Sprint ends NBA marketing deal in the wake of NASCAR split

A Sprint spokesman confirmed a report originally posted by Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal that it won’t renew its four-year NBA deal worth $222 million.
A Sprint spokesman confirmed a report originally posted by Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal that it won’t renew its four-year NBA deal worth $222 million. The Associated Press

Sprint Corp. is ending its four-year sponsorship deal with the National Basketball Association seven months after announcing an end to its NASCAR Sprint Cup deal.

Sprint spokesman Dave Mellin confirmed a mutual decision between the company and league in an email Wednesday, providing what he said was a joint statement with the league.

“After careful evaluation, Sprint and the NBA have decided not to extend their marketing partnership,” the statement said. “We are proud of our four-year relationship and our joint efforts to leverage technology to bring the game of basketball closer to the fans.”

Word of the NBA news surfaced in an online report by Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal.

“Sprint officials told the NBA last Wednesday that the company will not renew the four-year, $222 million NBA sponsorship it signed during the 2011 lockout, which was then the largest sponsorship deal in league history,” its post said.

The Sports Business Journal said in its report that Sprint and the NBA parted ways after the league had played host to Sprint chief executive Marcelo Claure at the recent NBA Finals.

In May, the Overland Park-based wireless company also named a new chief marketing officer. Kevin Crull, a Canadian broadcast executive, succeeded Jeff Hallock.

The joint statement also said Sprint would focus “squarely on its core business and in delivering consumers the best possible wireless experience.”

Sprint similarly said in December that higher priorities led it to end its NASCAR sponsorship effective with the end of the 2016 season.

Claure, named CEO last August, has been working to cut expenses on several fronts, including layoffs. That has allowed Sprint to cut prices and promote deals to win new customers. Claure also has announced plans to boost Sprint’s network with investments in additional cellular sites.

Sprint’s latest marketing campaign stars former soccer great David Beckham, with whom Claure is a friend and business partner.

Sprint is in danger of losing its standing as No. 3 in the industry to fast growing T-Mobile US Inc. T-Mobile recently said its subscriber count grew to 58.9 million at the end of June. Sprint, with 57.1 million subscribers at the end of March, has not reported a June total.

Ending both the NBA and NASCAR sponsorships sharply reduces Sprint’s sports-related marketing. The NBA declined to comment beyond the joint statement.

Mellin said separately that the NBA decision left in place Sprint’s relationships with the NBA’s Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers as well as its “longstanding and valuable relationship” with NBA star Kevin Durant.

“We will continue to partner and actively market with him for the foreseeable future,” Mellin’s email said.

Sprint also has marketing relationships with the Kansas City Chiefs, Kansas City Royals and Sporting Kansas City, as well as the University of Notre Dame and Brigham Young University.

Sprint’s website also notes relationships with the Sprint Center, the Kansas City Power & Light District and Starlight Theatre.

To reach Mark Davis, call 816-234-4372 or send email to mdavis@kcstar.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at mdkcstar.

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