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The NBA and Translation: Marketing a Cultural Giant

I’m interested in the value of big budget advertising in the sports world today. In a world of highlights and endless digital content, what’s the role of high-profile advertising at Christmas or the playoffs? Do I still need to turn people on?

Keith Javeri: The NBA has built one of the world’s largest social media communities with 2.1 billion likes and followers worldwide across league, team and player accounts, one of our most valuable marketing strategies. We are always developing new ways to use social media and digital platforms to bring our fans closer to the game with unique content that generates interest and excitement in the league. The Big Statement ad and our social media efforts are not mutually exclusive. They rely on each other to achieve maximum success, and we saw this with the NBA Lane campaign, which has amassed 106 million video views, more than any NBA campaign to date.

Jason Campbell: The NBA has a very difficult audience. It has a demographic that sits and watches games, as well as a frenetic online base that just consumes the highlights. So the goal was to capture both. I think the big statement is always – you’ll hear it from most creative people anyway – they love it. I really think it’s a really good way to let people know what you’re on about. But I think the ongoing dialogue, the momentum around how we work, is just as important. For me it can’t be either-or. At some point it will probably lean to one side. But for now, I think you need both, and you need them both to be just as attractive. Like, this one can’t be great, but that one can’t be shit.

It must be fun to work with athletes – 500 guys who can share their work through their little media empires. How does this affect the way you work?

Keith Javery: We continue to see NBA players being some of the most followed athletes and entertainers in the world on their social media. NBA players are much more than just athletes. These are husbands, fathers, businessmen, fashion icons, activists, artists and many others. For example, LeBron James has over 123 million Instagram followers and 51 million Twitter followers.

The NBA Twitter community is as vibrant as it is because of how accessible and visible our players have made themselves. This accessible and unique perspective has led to the evolution we’ve seen over the past few years as players launch their own podcasts and media companies, which in turn has only fueled the league’s growth with new fans and audiences. From Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green creating his own real-time podcast to Minnesota Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards, Philadelphia 76ers’ Matisse Taibul and Oklahoma City Thunder’s Josh Giddy, NBA players continue to give fans have a front row seat in their lives.

Jason Campbell: The difficulty is that you can do something with the players and they still won’t want to write about it. So you still have to create something that they like in order for them to become active participants in the spread of the idea. I would just say it’s not as simple as “You do it and they do it”. But they liked what we created, so it got easier.

Ann Wool: And you’ll know right away if you hit a string. If they walk off the set and you have to say, “No, no, no, no. You really can’t post right now. You must wait.” And they are a little annoyed that they have to wait. Because they just had fun or just had a fight with someone. There were so many little moments and every little vignette was so tailored to the player that they really wanted to publish.

Jason Campbell: The shooting itself was certainly under a lot of pressure, but it was fun. I always believe that the energy on set really comes through and you can see it. Kobe’s moment in the first place was awe-inspiring. It really was. I think the players, the celebrities, all felt the concept and it became like a super power to be able to amplify that message from them.

Ann Wool: We also made a new celebrity. hoopbus now world famous. This is an organization that delivers basketball to the children of Los Angeles and Chicago. We looked at different vehicles and the Hoopbus was simply the most perfect vehicle and so we made a new celebrity. I think Hoopbus is being asked to speak now and has moved up a few notches.

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