The “wine league” is finally teaming up with a wine brand.

Jackson Family Wines and the National Basketball Association (NBA) announced today that Kendall-Jackson — the winery behind America’s best-selling Chardonnay — will be the league’s first official wine partner. Kendall-Jackson shared that the companies have agreed to a four-year contract with an option to extend the partnership. La Crema, another brand in the Jackson Family Wines portfolio, will also sign on as the official wine of the WNBA, marking the first major beverage partnership targeting professional women’s basketball. Further, Kendall-Jackson and La Crema will serve as joint-partners of Team USA Basketball’s Men’s and Women’s teams.

Sporting events are largely associated with frothy brews and high-end spirits, so why work with a wine brand? Well, the NBA has something of a soft spot for wine: some iconic players like LeBron James frequently tout their wine collections and celebrate wins with baller bottles, and others like Dwyane Wade and Tony Parker went on to start their own labels or invest in wineries. This growing interest spread rapidly through the league’s players and its community at large — so much so that it’s been dubbed the “wine league.”

“The NBA’s decision to embrace an official wine partner marks a step towards embracing the evolving tastes and interests of their community,” said the league in a press release. “The NBA has witnessed a blossoming interest in wine culture among its players, fans, and stakeholders… This partnership is an acknowledgment of the cultural shift within the NBA, recognizing wine not just as a beverage, but as a symbol of community and shared experiences.”

But how did Kendall-Jackson score the spot as the NBA’s wine of choice? The brand told VinePair that the partnership actually arose organically over the past few years, starting with a simple gesture.

A Strong First Half

During the early pandemic, Jackson Family Wines set out to help uplift the community through several charitable endeavors, including launching the Grocery Workers Relief Fund with United Way. When the NBA decided to carry out its season from within “the bubble” by isolating themselves from their families and the world, Bill O’Connor, EVP of sales for Jackson Family Wines, had the idea to send them a thank you package for helping bring some joy and entertainment to an otherwise dreary time. O’Connor worked with Joey Graziano, the NBA’s SVP head of global event strategy and development, to coordinate a shipment of wine and educational materials into the bubble.

O’Connor and Graziano kept in touch, and after a few more chance run-ins, the two brands finally met to discuss the partnership in October 2023.

“The NBA liked the authenticity of our company,” O’Connor says. “We’re a family-owned, American company, and we share a lot of the same values as the NBA — it was a perfect marriage.”

The NBA echoed this sentiment and suggested that the partnership was a natural progression of their relationship. “When we think about the brands we want to partner with, we think about the shared values they might have, and a lot of the priorities we have are aligned across both organizations,” Julie Morris, the head of commercial development and media for the NBA shared. “We both want to connect people through community and drive sustainability and DEI efforts.”

Both parties say they’re also particularly excited about the synergies between La Crema and the WNBA. La Crema is a female-run winery, and both brands are focused on inclusivity, empowerment, and representation. But beyond these shared principles, the winery and the league have each recently experienced a surge in growth — the WNBA is currently the fastest-growing women’s sport property in America.

Game-Time Decisions

So what will this partnership look like going forward?

“We see the partnership as something for fans, players, coaches, and everyone involved,” O’Connor says. “Our portfolio hits from courtside seats to the rafters, whether it’s an entry level bottle for younger consumers entering the wine category, or higher-end bottles.”

Specifically, Kendall-Jackson and La Crema will be the go-to wines for marquee moments throughout the NBA and WNBA seasons. Kendall-Jackson will host wine pop-ups at events like NBACon and the NBA All-Star Game, providing fans the opportunity to sip and learn more about its portfolio. These brands will also head up several smaller activations with the NBA and WNBA, with events like ticketed wine dinners for VIPs.

Jackson Family Wines will also support the Team USA basketball teams and collaborate with them on activations ahead of this summer’s Olympics in Paris and the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. Kendall-Jackson’s inaugural vine planting in 1974 coincides with the founding year of USA Basketball, so this year marks the 50th anniversary for both brands, which they plan on celebrating.

A Potential Slam Dunk

The fusion of the NBA and wine communities couldn’t come at a more opportune time. Several sources, including this year’s Silicon Valley Bank State of the U.S. Industry Report, have indicated that wine is struggling to connect with a younger audience. The NBA and its individual players have an undeniable influence on culture, and as the league further embraces wine, brands like Kendall-Jackson and La Crema will be ideally positioned to draw from the NBA’s massive fan-base.

“I think this is exactly what the wine industry needs,” Chris Jackson, co-proprietor of Kendall-Jackson says. “Kendall-Jackson and La Crema are growing and the younger consumers are the future of these wineries. We need to bridge the divide between the generations of drinkers, and we think the authenticity of our relationship with the NBA will help achieve that. This partnership is exactly what the doctor ordered and we are beyond excited.”

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