NBA- The Young People's League
It all started when Adam Silver became the commissioner of the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 2014, replacing David Stern who had held the position for 30 years. Since then, the NBA has easily been the most innovative and tech-focussed sports league in the US and likely the world. Although still lagging behind the National Football League (NFL) in terms of revenue (Badenhausen, 2018), the NBA is outperforming the much larger NFL in a number of other ways including revenue growth (Morris, 2018), public perception (Branch, 2018) and international reach (Holst, 2018).
The Importance of Mobile
Compared to the NFL and Major League Baseball (MLB), the NBA have truly embraced the viewership of Millennials and Generation Z. This is exemplified through their focus on catering their content and digital marketing strategies toward mobile platforms.
The NBA have introduced a number of strategies including Mobile View, a mode for their livestreaming service League Pass, which provides tighter, zoomed-in camera angles for smaller screens such as phones (Terdiman, 2018). This was achieved through the installation of additional cameras in arenas.
The NBA has also focussed on providing bite-sized pieces of content perfect for posting on social media to encourage paid viewership. This is exemplified through the league’s partnership with WSC Sports. A tech company which automates highlight video creation with artificial intelligence. This partnership allows the NBA to post upwards of 30 highlight clips a day to their Instagram page, keeping their brand at the forefront of consumers’ minds.
The NBA has also established its own e-sports league. The league currently has 21 teams which are owned by the actual NBA teams they represent. For example, the Boston Celtics team is called Celtics Crossover Gaming. The league operates similarly to the actual NBA with player drafts, stat-tracking and analysis, media coverage and a wide array of sponsors. Yet again, this appeals to the younger generations and is a strategy not yet adopted by the NFL or MLB.
Unlike the NFL, the NBA encourages their players to speak out on social or political issues they feel strongly about. This shows that the NBA understands their target markets very well. Most NBA viewers are fairly left-leaning politically (Branch, 2018) and as such appreciate that the athletes they watch are able to express themselves in ways NFL players such as Colin Kaepernick are unable to. Presumably, this attitude towards political and social issues appeals to Millennial and Generation Z viewers.
More so than any other league, the NBA has adapted its business model to suit the consumption habits of Millennials and Generation Z. Through digital marketing strategies such as tailoring and producing large amounts of content for mobile platforms, allowing their players to speak out about issues they feel passionately about and empowering them to do so and creating an e-sports league, the NBA has become a genuine threat to the dominance of the NFL.
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Badenhausen, K., 2018. These 14 NBA Players Make More Than Any NFL Player. [Online] Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kurtbadenhausen/2018/07/09/these-14-nba-players-make-more-than-any-nfl-player/#731da9b54d48 [Accessed 3 September 2019].
Branch, J., 2018. Why the N.F.L. and the N.B.A. Are So Far Apart on Social Justice Stances [Online] Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/22/sports/nfl-nba-social-justice-protests.html [Accessed 3 September 2019].
Morris, D., 2018. NFL vs. NBA: Which Will Be America’s Biggest Sport 10 Years From Now?. [Online] Available at: https://fortune.com/2018/05/26/nfl-vs-nba-americas-biggest-sport/ [Accessed 3 September 2019].
Windhorst, B., 2012. David Stern has date for retirement. [Online] Available at: https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/8550645/david-stern-retire-nba-commissioner-2014 [Accessed 2 September 2019].