T-Mobile USA’s NBA sponsorship in limbo amid uncertain future for both

It might be time for Sir Charles and D-Wade to hang up that call.

T-Mobile USA has been a major sponsor of the NBA since 2005 — including a series of ads starring the NBA legends — but we’re hearing it’s unlikely that the Bellevue-based company will be renewing the relationship for the upcoming season.

It’s easy to understand why. For one thing, it’s not clear when the NBA season will start, amid the ongoing lockout resulting from the labor dispute between NBA owners and players. And T-Mobile’s future is even more unclear, after the U.S. Justice Department filed to block ATT’s $39 billion acquisition of the company from T-Mobile USA parent Deutsche Telekom.

In response to our inquiry, a T-Mobile USA representative said the relationship with the NBA remains in place, but added that the company hasn’t made any announcements about the upcoming season. The league and the company signed a three-year contract extension three years ago.

T-Mobile is legally required to continue operating as an independent company, competing just as it would under normal circumstances, even with the ATT deal pending.

But even before the announcement of the ATT deal in March, T-Mobile had been shifting its marketing strategy from broad national partnerships to a more local approach, as part of its move to empower regional execs to respond to conditions they see. Local examples include T-Mobile’s sponsorship of this year’s Puyallup Fair.

Separately, on the legal front, ATT last week filed a response opposing the Justice Department’s attempt to block the acquisition, arguing that T-Mobile actually isn’t as strong of a competitor as the government has asserted.


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