The NBA: Where Marketing Happens

Title: The NBA: Where Marketing Happens
Date: March 20, 2008
Original Source: Hoops Addict
Synopsis: Another Hoops Addict piece lost to the Bermuda Triangle of the internet that is changing servers/hosts, but luckily I had all of these articles backed up. In this one I examined the NBA’s new marketing campaign, “Where Amazing Happens.”

I think it’s about time somebody took a long hard look at the NBA’s marketing strategy for the 2007-08 season. And I don’t mean from a bloggers point of view, because we’ve all beaten the ‘where amazing happens’ tagline to death by now. Look around the internet and you’ll find that every basketball blog and sports blog in general has, at some time, made a comment or post using the NBA’s current marketing slogan as a foundation.
I get it. We’ve spoken. For the most part, we don’t like the tagline.
“The NBA: Where amazing happens” was what the NBA decided to go with as the primary marketing campaign for the 2007-08 season. There were several league-generic commercials produced that air in all of the basketball markets and each inidivudal team has at least one team-specific commercial. The commercials air several times per broadcast (I believe the NBA mandates a certain number of league commercials, but I couldn’t find information to confirm it), highlighting great plays or experiences associated with the league or team while some pretty cheesy piano music plays. Each clip is a moving freeze frame with a short ‘Where _____ happens’ accompanying it, and each commercial ends with the NBA logo and ‘Where amazing happens.’
The campaign is hot-and-cold in my opinion. Given the constraints facing the league, it’s a decent campaign, but it could have been a lot more. Allow me to highlight some of the highs and lows of the campaign, keeping in mind I have a marketing background and am perfectly capable of ignoring the axiom that bad marketing is worse than no marketing.
Over the last few years, they heavily promoted the NBA Cares and Read to Achieve programs but let the on-court product advertise itself. In that regard, I must give the NBA credit. Every league should have a consistent image portrayed by all teams and a strong and consistent message, and the league has finally done that.
This year, the NBA didn’t really have a choice in what that message was. With the league’s bad-boy image and the Tim Donaghy scandal in the offseason, the league was put in a position where humor would not be well received and the league seriously needed to remind casual fans why they should be watching. The league has provided us with a plethora of memorable and emotional moments, and the commercials do well in reminding us how awesome the game can be.
A final point on the positive side is that the commercials, from a marketing strategy perspective, have been an enormous success. Everyone knows and recognizes the tagline, and the piano music is recognized enough that just a few notes of it can make me cringe. The fact that the line has been knocked off across the internet is actually a great sign. We may not like the ads in general, but they are recognizable, memorable, and far-reaching. In that sense, the NBA has received serious bang for its marketing buck, creating many more advertising impressions than just the number of advertisements played.
However, the commercials are criticized for being cheesy, uninspiring, and generally boring, and the music is awful. The commercials are not exciting and really fail to highlight the excitement the game is loved for. Producing slow commercials seems counterintuitive when promoting a fast-paced game. The commercials are also extremely repetitive for anyone who watches a large number of games.
In years past, the NBA has done much less marketing or used less streamlined marketing communications, and this may appeal more to the hardcore fan. As an example of the what the NBA is capable of doing on the positive side, their fantasy commercials last year were funny and well received. Unfortunately, they also received little exposure and there were only a few made.
Other leagues have had trouble creating a likable league-wide marketing campaign, too. While the NHL’s campaign upon relaunch was highly anticipated, it was berated for not relating to the game and frustrated serious fans. The NFL has produced commercials to entice Canadian fans to choose a team to root for, and the response has been good but the penetration level has been poor. Major League Baseball lets teams do things mostly on their own, and the Toronto Blue Jays have done a great job in the past few years but other teams have struggled.
I am a strong proponent of a consistent marketing image for the league. I like that the NBA created a prototype and then created team-specific elaborations. The campaign has also been a success from a word of mouth standpoint. With all of that said, though, the commercials are not necessarily in line with the actual NBA game and they do frustrate those who watch a lot of games. I feel the NBA could do better. Despite a poor image conveyed to non-fans, they are the best of the major leagues when it comes to marketing communications. Their broadcasts, website, and team-specific communications are all pretty consistent.
Now they just need to make all of that consistently enjoyable, and we’ll be in business.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: