Player Awards Add Value to Sports Sponsorships


160/90 VP and Head of Basketball Michael Uva explains why player and performance awards maximize fan content and add value to sponsorships. As originally published on SportBusiness.com.




The NBA Playoffs have been as captivating as ever, with the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics currently competing to be crowned champion in the 75th NBA Finals. 

The Playoffs are also a moment in the season that highlight another highly-discussed contest – the culmination of the annual Kia Performance Awards platform. 

In the US, there’s a fascination with these Awards, which one doesn’t see quite so strongly in soccer, even if black-tie events like the Ballon d’Or and the Best Fifa Football Award grab the headlines for the following day or two. 

This year, the NBA’s Kia Performance Awards have been highly discussed by the media throughout the season with extensive focus on the Kia MVP race between superstars like the Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid, to breakout stars like Ja Morant and defensive stalwart Marcus Smart. 

The Awards have remained relevant to NBA fans partly because both Kia as the title sponsor and the NBA prioritise the platform throughout the full season – and not just at the end of the year – showcasing the best moments and athletes in the game as often as possible. 

This approach adds value for the title sponsor and league alike and it is one other rights-holders should certainly consider. 

Since establishing the Awards structure with the NBA, the platform has continued to evolve, engaging fans and staying ahead of trends – thereby helping Kia distinguish itself from its competition. 

The platform produces evergreen content across media, while encouraging authentic fan conversations through extensions like the Kia MVP Ladder and Player of the Month Awards. 

I believe there are lessons to be learned for how the Kia NBA Performance Awards occur each season: 

  • The most important factor has been capitalising on opportunities to grow and reimagine the Awards. From the outset in 2007, the platform opened with four awards: NBA Most Valuable Player, NBA Defensive Player of the Year, NBA Most Improved Player, and the NBA Sixth Man Award. Over time, Kia added NBA Rookie of the Year, NBA All-Star Game MVP, All-NBA Teams, and most recently, extended the platform to the WNBA and G League. The Awards have also been prominently featured in NBA 2K games. 

  • Allowing fans to be an active participant in the platform has been a key ingredient for both Kia and the NBA. The Kia NBA All-Star Game MVP and NBA MVP fan votes have become highly anticipated opportunities for fans to have their voices heard, with a direct impact on the results. The always-on nature of the programme has been reinforced by the inclusion of the Kia NBA Player and Rookie of the Month Awards that extend the conversation and allow fans to engage on a local level. 

  • The Awards have provided a background narrative to Kia’s growth story in the US, which is especially helpful to brands looking to establish themselves in new markets. Recent priorities like the manufacturer’s brand refresh and launch of electric vehicles have further helped focus energy across the NBA partnership.


In short, Awards can be static, familiar events where the primary focus is on who wins, or they can be year-round events in themselves, generating content and value as a sponsorship asset. If the Awards associated with your sport are in the former camp, it may be time to reassess.