NBA and ESPN bring lofi games of HORSE to the fans via Zoom

The NBA has given basketball fans something to hold on to while the season has been cancelled due to Coronavirus. Using Zoom, ESPN and the NBA put on a HORSE tournament with players shooting hoops from their own back yards or at local courts.

The viewership is not as high as games, but it’s still around half a million for many of the matches and the 1 – 1 nature of the game could provide a wealth of content to keep fans engaged until the next season begins.

From Fast Company:

For the NBA, which suspended its 2019-2020 season on March 11, the challenge has been to keep fans interested and engaged.

Since then, the league has launched a number of new content initiatives, all under the umbrella of “NBA Together.” Those include Instagram Live sessions with star players, a new interview stream with broadcaster Ernie Johnson on the league’s Twitter feed, posting practice drills for young players stuck at home, new programming on NBA TV that has players commenting on classic games, and more.

But last Sunday, the league took its experimentation a step further, teaming with ESPN to take the big leagues to the playground with a televised pandemic version of H-O-R-S-E. The tournament started with eight players that span current stars from the NBA and WNBA, as well as a few retired legends, and was whittled down to four semifinalists playing for the crown on Thursday. Aside from bragging rights among the players, as part of the game league sponsor State Farm is donating more than $200,000 to COVID-19 response efforts.

Paul Benedict, the NBA’s associate VP of broadcasting content management, said, “I think it’s forcing everyone, not just in sports and entertainment, to approach things differently given the limitations, and to approach things more efficiently,” says Benedict. “The countless number of Zoom calls we’ve been on, you just have a different mindset when you approach collaborative efforts like these. H-O-R-S-E was a scaled-down production in some ways, but a massive effort in others that required quick thinking, split-second decision-making, and a lot of cooperation across the board. I think we’re going to come out as a league better from this, stronger, and more collaborative. It’s a great building block.”

Why it’s hot:

It’s interesting that the Zoom format gives a more intimate experience with the players than what you’d get with a typical ESPN broadcast. How will this change what fans expect of players and of ESPN content in the long run?

This format gives players the opportunity (or obligation) to connect on a different level with their fans, one where personality is perhaps taking on a bigger role.

Source: Fast Company

a new magic leap for the nba, or vice versa…


This week, notorious mixed reality company Magic Leap announced a new NBA “app” built on its platform.

Per Magic Leap, “Using Magic Leap’s Screens framework, fans can pull up multiple virtual screens to watch live games, full game replays, and highlights playing all at the same time. Only on Magic Leap’s spatial computing platform can these screens be independently scaled to any size and placed in any location. But the really cool stuff? The NBA App on Magic Leap introduces team -vs- team and player -vs- player season-long table top stats comparisons. And while live games are exclusively available for NBA League Pass and NBA Single-Game subscribers, a massive catalog of on-demand content is free for anyone using Magic Leap One.”

Why it’s hot:

Any new platform’s success ultimately depends on people using it. And in order to be useful, it must offer utility. It seems Magic Leap is starting to get into the first of what it believes to be many applications of adding mixed reality layers to our physical world. For several years, they had talked about the device which would enable this. Now, they’ve finally turned to the platform on which to develop experiences. Could this be what the app store was to smart phones? Only time will tell, but it will be exciting to see how Magic Leap and its brand partners develop new ways to experience content and the world with an added immersive layer.

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Twitter Will Give You a New Way to Stream NBA Games

Starting on February 17th, Twitter will be live streaming NBA games–but only the second half, and only with an isolated view of one player. The interesting premise stems from existing second screen behavior. Instead of competing with fans who will watch the game on TV, Twitter wants to offer an interactive and complimentary experience.

During the first half of the game, fans can tweet to vote for which player they want to see in Twitter’s stream. Then, the “iso-cam” will stream on @NBAonTNT.

If the player selected happens to be benched or fouls out, the view will switch to a camera behind the backboard — still giving viewers a different perspective than what TNT will be airing on TV.

Why It’s Hot

This is a unique way to capitalize on the existing behavior of scrolling social media while watching sports. Twitter is giving people a reason to tune into their live stream to not miss out on the action that only they’ll be able to capture.

Source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/01/09/twitter-nba-streams-focus-on-single-players/ 

espn brings a different kind of air to nba finals…

To promote its live stream of the recent NBA Finals, ESPN pulled an interesting stunt in Manhattan – Airdropping images with text connecting what people were doing with watching the finals.

Why It’s Hot

I’m not sure it is either real, or hot, but what’s seemingly interesting and clever is the fact that they utilized an overlooked iOS feature and used it to personalized their message on a one-to-one basis.

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nike connected jersey…

Nike added a new layer of to clothing recently when it introduced connected NBA jerseys.

To coincide with its new status as official NBA gear provider, jersey owners can now tap their iPhone 7 with iOS11 on the jersey’s tag to activate “premium content” via NFC.

Per 9-to-5 mac:

“Essentially what happens is customers can purchase a jersey for their favorite player and unlock “premium content” about that player via the NikeConnect app. That premium content includes things such as “pregame arrival footage,” highlight reels, music playlists from players, and more. Just so everything comes full circle, the jerseys can unlock boosts for players in NBA 2K18.”

Why It’s Hot:

Everything is now a platform. With AR, NFC, and QR truly becoming mainstream, and mixed reality and AI presumably not long behind them, we’re interacting with things in a whole new way. This is a relatively light example – less utility, more entertainment – but it shows how technology is integrating into everything to provide a new layer of experience to even the clothes we wear.

Is Lebron James one of the Best Brand Storytellers of All Time?

As one of the greatest to ever play the game, and perhaps one of the most polarizing figures in sports today, Lebron James’s has seen his share of ups and downs since he joined the NBA in 2003. But there’s no arguing that James has carefully crafted his Brand. At times powerfully emotional – at times wholly contrived – James harnesses his branded partnerships and massive media leverage to tell his story and sell product while he’s at it. Because that’s exactly what a superstar player like James does off the court– he constructs and carefully manages his image. Through media and brand partnerships over the years, James has established himself as one of the most iconic figures in advertising– most notably through his work with Nike.

This week, The Ringer published a retrospective look at James’s Brand narrative, so to speak, “A Reverse Chronology of Lebron James’s Persona, Told Through His Commercials”

Here’s my favorite:

Why It’s Hot:

Watching James’s career through the lens of his ads shows us the story arc of his own personal brand strategy come to life. Juxtaposing James’s Nike spots during his stint in Miami with those that followed once he returned as the Prodigal Son of Cleveland make for an uneasy character study; The Ringer’s Jason Concepcion cynically muses of the spots, “Authenticity is a valuable commodity that can be replicated as necessary”. Yet if this tells us anything as marketers, it’s that strong brands are resilient, despite losses, missteps, and change.

The NBA’s Instagram Team Scores Without Sneakers Pro basketball continues to slam dunk social video

The National Basketball Association has held a Dr. J-like grip on the No. 1 ranking in the weekly Adweek/Shareablee Instagram video charts since the pro league’s playoffs got into full stride last month. It would be easy to say the dominance is all about LeBron James—his fans and haters who seemingly cannot get enough of the best player in the world.

But the NBA’s social media staffers deserve a lot more credit than that, routinely finding creative ways to post 15-second clips that generate huge engagement. For instance, one week, it was a series of stills that showed the trendy/preppy duds being worn by James, Kevin Durant, Paul Pierce, Russell Westbrook, etc., as they strutted their stuff before and after their playoff games. No highlight reels needed.

Most recently, the NBA won Instagram with a social video showing the Miami Heat’s Mike Miller running the court and nailing a three-point shot in a Finals game versus the San Antonio Spurs. The catch: The basketball journeyman was only wearing one shoe—and the #FlashBack clip was from last year’s Finals against the Spurs. In terms of repurposing creative, that’s a slam dunk.

Why it’s hot:

Interesting way to generate content around the event.  Sometimes unusual and unknown activities around an event (pre/post) provides the audience with a moment of “discovery” to fuel their immersive experience.