American Airlines Has A Lot Riding On Potential NBA Finals Matchup

American Airlines
American Airlines

If the Miami Heat win Game 5 tonight and advance to the NBA Finals, it will mean the second finals in the last six years that both arenas have American Airlines on them.

The airline had arena exclusivity in 2006, when the Heat bested the Mavs in six games.

American bought the naming rights to the Dallas (American Airlines Center) and Miami (AmericanAirlines Arena) arenas in 1999 and 2000. The airline paid $42 million over 20 years for Miami's naming rights and $195 million over 30 years for the rights in Dallas.

So what's it worth to the airline?

Philadelphia-based sponsorship evaluation firm Front Row Marketing calculated expected game mentions, exterior and interior arena signage and on screen text. They then translated the exposure time to what a 30-second ad costs for the Finals, roughly $450,000.

Front Row Marketing's Eric Smallwood took into account the placement of the signs inside each arena and told CNBC that every game in Dallas would be worth $10,515,000 to American Airlines and every game in Miami would be worth $10,729,500, thanks in part to a larger "AA" logo on the center scoreboard.

That means if the finals is a sweep, the airline would get $42 million in equivalent advertising time, the exact amount the American Airlines paid for 20 years of rights to the Miami arena. If the series goes seven games, Smallwood calculates that American will get $95.9 million in exposure.

American's main hub is in Dallas, but Smallwood says the sponsorship is even more valuable because so is its competitor Southwest, who just happens to the be the official airline of the NBA.

It should be interesting to see if American does any extra advertising. In 2006, American dubbed the Finals the "All American Series" and had promotions for Heat and Mavericks fans. American also gave away round trip airfare to four lucky fans to travel to Finals games on the road.

American is the nation's third largest airline. Earlier this month, the airline said that it experienced passenger growth in April everywhere but in the US.

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