What Can Brands Learn From NBA’s Opening Night?

For a major sports league, maintaining existing audiences isn’t much of a challenge as those who are fans know what to expect year in and year out. For the NBA, however, Opening Night — and the weeks leading up to it — is about introducing new fans to the game. The league launched a new campaign that explained ‘why we play’ while sending some of its marquee teams overseas to help grow the brand with those outside of North America. And then on Opening Night, it’s business as usual — featuring the best the NBA has to offer.

I. Use Nostalgia To Build Anticipation For The Future

For the 2015–16 season, the NBA’s pushed out their “This is why we play” campaign, which interweaved clips of the game’s greatest players, its modern stars, and images of people of all walks of life playing hoops. The beginning of the season is a time for optimism, and showing past greats hints at the idea that it could be any team’s year. When the ball tips up on Opening Night, every team’s record is the same, wether they won the title or finished with the worst record. In sports, there are few things that get fans watching more than the idea of hope, and that’s what “This is why we play” promises.

II. Increase Your Fan Base By Growing The Game Globally

Leading up to opening night, the NBA sent many of their teams to play exhibition games around the world. There were several featured games in Africa, Brazil, and China for the fans in some of the NBA’s biggest international markets. The NBA’s game continue’s to sport the biggest international following among the four major American leagues, and their world wide initiatives are a huge reason for the growth. For a brand a huge as the NBA, their core audience isn’t going to go anywhere, but with no regular season games played overseas, fans in other countries can only watch the games with paid subscriptions during the year. This is a great way for them to reach out to communities outside of the U.S. (and Toronto) and should be a best practice for any brand with a huge global audience — or any brand that wants one.

III. Open The Season With The Best And Brightest

For the NBA, Opening Night is their Apple WWDC. They open the night with one of the biggest new features, and close the night with the biggest news. This year, the NBA tipped off with the league’s biggest star of the last decade in LeBron James and closed out the night with the league’s biggest emerging stars in Stephen Curry and Anthony Davis. If you’re going to launch a product, launch it with your brand’s most recognizable and relatable faces — and have trust in the premise that they’ll perform well for their audience.

IV. Sometimes, You Just Have To Salsa

Originally shared on November 24th, 2015

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