There is no off-season in professional sports anymore. At least in the traditional sense. Professional sports is a year-round activity that operates in different phases marked by — and marketed around — specific highlights. Let’s take a look at the NBA. In June alone, the Golden State Warriors won back-to-back titles, 60 players will get a chance to realize their dream of playing in the NBA after being drafted, and Lebron closed out the month by turning NBA free agency on its head with his decision to become a Los Angeles Laker. Oh by the way — they even televised which team was going to get the first pick back in May.
July brings a whirlwind of free agency where players maximize contracts, request to be traded, and try to create the next super team. Some would argue that the NBA “off season” is more popular than its regular season. When Jrue Holiday can make more money in a season than Kevin Durant, and Paul Milsap was the 3rd highest paid player in the league — that is saying something. Not to be forgotten: the NBA runs its summer league for rookies and younger players in a little town in the desert called Las Vegas.
Under the leadership of Pam El, NBA’s VP and Chief Marketing Officer, who was recently named one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business, the league put an emphasis on fan engagement and saw a 8% rise in TV viewership this season. The NBA is a clear leader in social media (largest footprint of any North American league) with individual players, teams and yes — even burner accounts creating trending stories every day. The league ran game promos during the playoffs simulating Instagram like clips showing fans going crazy in their own homes over buzzer beaters and dramatic shots. In these same promotions, and during the playoffs — the league also integrated popular music and movies. Case in point: last year during every re-join they were playing Kendrick Lamar’s critically acclaimed 2nd album, DAMN. They also ran commercials with NBA players trying out for the leading role in Denzel Washington’s Equalizer II this summer. This intersection of music, sports, movies and even technology is probably best represented in the Google ad spot featuring Kevin Durant.
Always Relevant. Staying top of mind. Capitalizing on key events. Leveraging inspiration from other media. That’s the name of the game. Sure you might not have the budget of the NBA but your marketing plan and execution should be executing on themes at the beginning of this paragraph. Not surprisingly, it often comes down to content. The NBA commissioner Adam Silver recently referred to the league as producing all this great “content” that is packaged up and distributed. He did this in reference to justifying the NBA getting a cut of the new legalized gambling laws. Great content. Great Execution. And sprinkle in a little inspiration. That’s our way at Yalo. To Lebron from our Yalo North Team: Thanks for the championship – really wished you would have stayed in Cleveland!