NBA in-attendance records – A successful business model


The National Basketball Association (NBA) has a unique business model.

A strategic plan that is illustrated as a success not only among the Sports industry but also the remaining sectors. Regarding Ticketing, Sales, client retention, league competitiveness balance through the Draft, regular season and deep-playoff structure, etc.

Nonetheless, the in-attendance number has seen a rise.

As a matter of fact, the 2016-2017 NBA season set the all-time regular-season attendance record for a third consecutive season with almost 22 million fans cheering inside the arena (21,997,412).

The latter regular season tied the 2015-2016 sellout record (723), marking the third consecutive year the league had 700 or more games sold out.

Summarizing the highest Total NBA Regular-Season Attendances All-Time:

1st: 2016-17 – 21,997,412

2nd: 2015-16 – 21,972,129

3rd: 2014-15- 21,926,548

4th: 2006-07- 21,841,480

5th: 2005-06- 21,595,804

And Highest Average NBA Regular-Season Attendances All-Time:

1st: 2016-17 – 17,884

2nd: 2015-16 – 17,864

3rd: 2014-15 – 17,826

4th: 2006-07 – 17,757

5th: 2005-06 – 17,558


The worldwide broadcasting coverage, NBA TV and Over-the-Top (OTT) platforms options could lead the fan into watching the game in the comfort of the sofa. As so, the key-point is paying for the experience. The engagement provided. The entertainment displayed. The niche-product.

As Mark Cuban (NBA Dallas Mavericks’ owner) said: “We (sports leagues/teams) answer the question: What are we going to do tonight?”.

The competition is rather wider than choosing between an NBA or a NFL game. It’s getting a competitive advantage against cinemas, theaters, restaurants, concerts, and the list goes on.

Hence, the NBA product needs to be attractive not only for the fans but also for the investors, sponsors, media and owners.

Thus, the league have had a strong marketing and communication approach through its product: the players, the teams, the show.

A show which involves an all-around experience apart from the game itself. From food and beverages, music, dance shows, an half-court fan shot and kiss-cams going viral in the social media. It is business rather than mere passion. It’s the American approach and it fits the culture perfectly.

Additionally, the NBA is aware of the trends the market offers. The later topic can be confirmed with a concrete example: the All-Star game. The audience has evolved and the NBA adjusted. Until the 90’s – early 00’s the players’ goal was to win the game. East vs West. Defensive schemes and physical plays. The best players in the league going against each other in the mid-season break.

However, we are witnessing a different NBA All-Star game. A game where the “show” has a different meaning. On the 2017 New Orleans All-Star Game we saw Stephen Curry laying down the court for an open Giannis Antetokounmpo slam Dunk.

Which aspects can justify this different attitude from the product (players)?

Within several possible answers including preventing injuries for highly-paid players, I would rather focus on the fan point-of-view.

Thus, Millennials, in general, prefer the latter show. And NBA has to make sure the next generation of adults will bring their families to watch games they saw highlights on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The human being needs change with evolution. In this case, with technology tools.

With that said, the new NBA eight-year deal with Nike starting in the 2017-2018 season, replacing Adidas as the new apparel provider is worth around 1 billion dollars.

How does Nike aim to innovate right away? With the Nike’s ‘NBA Connected’ jerseys tap into the game with NFC tags.

The ability to unlock “premium content” as pregame arrival footage, highlight packages and top players’ favorite music playlists. It is engaging for the fan.

One plus product in-attendance attraction factor.

NBA is seeking more sell-out games as for each of the current 30 teams’ Sales Department do.

We may see that coming.