In an unprecedented year ranging from a global pandemic to a renewed fight for human rights, 2020 was never going to be sports as usual.
As a league, the NBA and its players have been at the forefront of raising awareness and fighting for change, while pursuing a championship at the same time. When it came time to promote the postseason, the ESPN Marketing team was tasked with capturing the weight of this moment while also balancing the excitement of the NBA Playoffs – all within a:30 spot.
Lucas Ferraro, Director of Sports Marketing, shares details behind the campaign’s evolution:
What made you decide to go in this direction?
Central to everything we do on the marketing side is to speak authentically to fans. To do that right now, we cannot ignore the larger narrative of what’s happening in the world, and the role that sports play in that. It was clear that addressing it within the creative was the right thing to do. We focused on the concept of unity and delivering a sense of community for fans – to “Rise Together.”
What has been the response so far?
Brand sentiment to our first NBA spot after the season was suspended, “Never Just a Game,” was overwhelmingly positive. It drove the most positive perceptions of ESPN than any other live sports creative measured. This was especially true among younger audiences (18-34-year-olds) and Black and African-American viewers. Having [ESPN college sports host & reporter, NBA Countdown host] Maria Taylor narrate the spot – as well as the second “Time to Return” spot when the season restarted – made both resonate stronger. We believe adding actor Michael B. Jordan’s voice to “Rise Together” – along with rapper Logic and his song “Celebration” as the music backdrop capturing the excitement of postseason play – will have a similar impact with reach and relevance.
How does the spot capture what you wanted to achieve?
We knew we wanted to extend the message around “Never Just a Game” but also capture the duality with the postseason. With “Rise Together,” we wanted it to serve as a call for fans to join together with the players and with ESPN in support of action both on and off the court. We think the split-screen gives equal weight to both, telling these stories together and the legacy that the players will leave through this historic season.