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Here's Where the Bulls Can Now Promote Their Brand, March 01, 2016

By Danny Ecker

Chicago Bulls fans in Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and throughout the state of Illinois may start seeing and hearing more from the team thanks to a tweaked NBA rule about where franchises can market themselves.

The league last week doubled the distance limits in which teams can promote their brands to 150 miles from their home cities. The boundaries also stretch to their entire home state, as long as that area doesn't extend to within 75 miles of a competitor's city.

Under the previous rules, the Bulls were not allowed to put up billboards, buy TV or radio ads, or do in-store promotions in such markets as Peoria, Springfield and Champaign-Urbana. Those territories are now in play for the team, as is the rest of downstate and far western Illinois—encompassing hundreds of thousands of residents that follow the team.

The Bulls will also be able to expand their marketing farther into southwest Michigan—reaching more than 250,000 people in Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids—as well as Fort Wayne, Ind.

The longstanding 75-mile marketing radius rule was originally designed to allow teams to control the marketing of their brands close to home. But the advent of social media and digital content has opened the door for teams and sponsors to speak to national and global audiences online. The Bulls do a lot of that, with more than 20 million followers on Facebook and Twitter—second only to the Los Angeles Lakers among American sports franchises.

Now the team can run targeted social and digital ad campaigns in places they never could before. That's especially attractive to sponsors that want to leverage their ties to the team in new markets.

"The marketing radius expansion creates some exciting new opportunities for the Bulls from both a marketing and partner standpoint," the Bulls said in a statement.

It could also grease the skids on new corporate partnerships for the team with consumer-goods brands that may have shied away from sponsorship deasl because they couldn't promote the Bulls partnership in certain markets.

"Maybe (the expanded territory) is the tipping point and makes it worthwhile to pay the sponsorship fee," said Jim Andrews, senior vice president of Chicago-based sponsorship consulting firm IEG. "It definitely expands the potential for new partners."

Bulls followers stretch far beyond 75 miles from the city. They dominate the entire state and stretch well into Iowa and northern Indiana.

An NBA executive told SportsBusiness Journal the new rules will allow its 30 teams overall to reach 100 million more fans with their promotions.