YouTube TV Puts on Full-Court Press With NBA Finals Ads, Sports Media Pundits Call Foul

NBA Finals
(Image credit: NBA)

Averaging over 11.9 million viewers on ABC Sunday evening, the NBA Finals delivered a better-than-expected matchup, with consistently underrated underdogs the Miami Heat once again rising up in the fourth quarter to surprisingly and dramatically steal Game 2 from the heavily favored Denver Nuggets. 

But the pundits behind popular sports media business blog Awful Announcing remained transfixed -- and highly annoyed by -- the advertising bombardment put forth by the official "presenting sponsor" of the NBA Finals, YouTube TV. 

The blog concedes the Finals have been competitive and fun through the first two games (Game 3 is Wednesday evening). "Unfortunately," it notes, "the series also promises to be a hellacious eyesore to actually sit down and watch, because ABC and the NBA have allowed so many obtrusive YouTube TV ads to smother it through the first two games that the Finals have come off more as a tacky YouTube TV infomercial than a prominent, significant sporting event.

In Devin Raab's compelling analysis, headlined "YouTube TV ads are ruining the look of the NBA Finals," the writer also makes this bold claim: "The degree to which these ads are omnipresent is breathtaking even by modern sports standards."

There is no official tally, but there do seem to be a lot of expressions of the "NBA Finals Presented By YouTube TV" logo. That's starts with a heartstrings-tugging 30-second spot, titled "We Are All in The NBA Finals," produced by the league, promoting itself and its keynote sponsor (see below).

This year's NBA Finals spot is narrated by John Malkovich and includes cameos from Tony Hawk, Jimmy Kimmel, Payton Manning, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, among others. (Next TV likes this ad, but nearly tossed its TCL out the window a few weeks ago after it ran, for like the 12th time during Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals on ABC, just as Nuggets guard Jamal Murray was going absolutely off on our Lakers in the third quarter. Someone guard him!) 

Of course, the NBA puts some annual iteration of this self-reverential Finals spot in heavy rotation via its broadcast TV partner every postseason, but what Awful Announcing astutely notes is the sheer extreme volume of YouTube brand messaging beyond the commercials. 

This starts at the beginning of each Finals game, the site says, when "you first have to see a colossal YouTube TV logo ident, complete with a loud, space-aged sound effect and play-by-play man Mike Breen announcing to everyone that the event is presented by YouTube TV, just in case that wasn’t abundantly clear already."

Then there's the visual three-point logo barrage on the playing floor itself. At the Nuggets' Ball Arena for Games 1 and 2, not only were two YouTube TV logos prominently positioned on the floor of each half-court area, the branding "NBA Finals Presented by YouTube" TV was also festooned on each side of the court. 

There was also YouTube TV branding on the press/announcer's desk. 

As this screen shot captured by Awful Announcing shows, you can be perpetually  bombarded with three or more YouTube TV logos as the game unfurls. 

NBA Finals

(Image credit: ABC)

"When all the table ads are promoting YouTube TV, it briefly creates one of the most hideous images you’ll ever see in an American sporting event -- an equinox in which three different gargantuan, impossible-to-miss ads for the same product are not just on the same side of the court at the same time, but are so close to one another other that they’re practically touching," Raab wrote. 

OK, so Awful Announcing has called a flagrant foul penalty 2 -- the serious kind -- on the league and its sponsor. We're going to say it's at least a common foul. 

Of course, to the league and its sponsor, none of this is necessarily surprising, or even disturbing. YouTube signed a multiyear deal with the league back in 2018 to be its first ever "presenting sponsor" for the Finals.

Notably, the NBA has a similar deal with YouTube and Google parent company Alphabet that makes Google Pixel the presenting sponsor of NBA playoff games leading into the Finals. 

We couldn't find monetary figures for these sponsorship deals, but they undoubtedly don't come cheap. 

Daniel Frankel

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!