NBA – The National Basketball Association- is an emotion that people feel for not only in the United States but also, all across the globe. The love for the NBA is serious; and this seventy-year-old organization has been generating massive money year on year. Let’s just talk about last year (2021) against the current year (2020). The 30 teams making up the NBA had an average valuation of $1.9 billion each in 2019, which, in 2020, rose to a whopping $2.12 billion!
The brand has been killing it across the globe, it has gone next level, from being just an American sports league to a global brand, all thanks to their brilliant marketing techniques. It is true for a fact that the NFL might still be greater than NBA in the overall numbers as a whole, however, the year on the year growth trend of the NBA has overtaken the NFL and how! The NBA strived for global dominance in terms of a sports league and they really have gone all the way to achieve this.
So what are these marketing techniques and strategies that have NBA make so much money?
- Kickass Content
When it comes to content, the NBA knows it better than most. The association always takes it to the next level with their content marketing. Be it for their regular updates on Social Media or even just its website NBA.com, they leave no stone unturned to prove their seriousness with content that drives the majority of the traffic. There always is a consistent flow of content in all forms; images, videos, texts, blog post articles – they know how to get people hooked to them and never leave, just by their content! Take the NBA 2020 bubble for example. All of their social media accounts were flooded with regular updates about the hows. They created a Twitter account called the NBA Bubble Life and all the posts are so full of innovation and commitment to keep the viewers informed and entertained even through the COVID crisis.
The key takeaway here is to generate so much content that you cannot go unnoticed. Just like the NBA, infuse a lot of personality in your content- a personality that you know your potential viewers or your targeted market would be able to vibe with. You need to also have a dedicated, serious budget for your content creation team and to maintain the engagement with the content thereof.
2. The NBA Extensions
The NBA emerged as a concept back in 1946, however, up until 1996, it did not have much support, viewership, or engagement from the female community -it was all for the males, about the males. But then, with the creation of WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) in 1996, there was a sudden stir of interest from the females around the globe in the NBA.
This marketing stint came at a point when nobody could have ever thought that women would ever generate interest in the sport, and this non-traditional marketing kicked in wonders! Looking at the positive responses, they went on to create extensions like the NWBA (National Wheelchair Basketball Association) and NBA-China, which, alone, generated as much as $550 million in revenue in one season!
The key takeaway here is that you, as one business owner, cannot be the master of all trades but you can be the master of one and a jack of all. You, also, of course, cannot match the global wavelength of creating extensions as the NBA did. However, that said, you sure can take steps that suit your constraints and still make it big-albeit in a limited market. With the power of digital marketing in today’s world, you sure can at least create social media handles and pages within your one brand to address various niches. For example, if you are a clothing brand based in Singapore, you can create an online store for your brand in China, India, Hong Kong. Or maybe even, instead of operating as just one huge store, you could operate as Clothing for Women; Clothing for Kids, Clothing for Men, Clothing for non-binary, and likes of such.
3. Knowing No-Limits
The NBA understood very early on that in order to be known, they need to supersede even their own limits in order to be visible. They know what it means to go big or go home. While they could have very well stopped right at billboards and social media, they went all-out. The NBA invested in building an apparel line with Nike; they made it a point to respond to their followers on social media accounts not only with simple bot-like replies but in the form of video replies as answers to questions users had to ask them.
To keep up interaction and for all-round visibility, the NBA also created a Reddit community which is so often ignored by brands, and guess what? Their Reddit community has 3.6 million members today!
The key takeaway here is to ensure that you, as a brand are unstoppable. Get your brand out in terms of its visibility as much as you can, wherever you can, however, you can. Boost your engagement with your audience and ensure that you make it fun, personal, and not robotic so to say. Engage with your audience, have them see you everywhere, influence your users, and have them notice you like there is no one else but you in the race- even if it means by using sponsored content. Let your brand’s story be seen, heard, and known.
4. Top-Notch Internal Branding
The NBA always finds ways to be in the spotlight. They find ways to remain relevant and popular, even if it means doing so through their players. NBA’s star players have branded themselves so much over the years that ex-star like Micheal Jordan also happened to find himself signing movies. (Is he the greatest actor ever? That is not the point. ) Draymond Green appeared in so many (funny) commercials.
Such self-marketing helps the NBA as a brand because by signing huge endorsements with huge brands, it works towards the common goal of branding the league. The stars, of course, could sign such associations only because their NBA contract did not stop them from doing so; the NBA did not constraint them to non-solicitation.
The key takeaway here is to not have your employees be limited or stuck to you and to not take their freedom of creativity from them. While it does make sense that as a (much) smaller name you restrict them in some way to ink a deal with other companies, you should at least keep a wiggle room on having conversations and discussions about any mutually benefitting ideas they might have. To put it in more relatable terms, for example, you could let your employees host podcasts that benefit them and your company alike. Or, maybe, if you have a really good writer in your team who is otherwise working as an accountant, you could let them venture simultaneously in a blog where they can endorse their writing skills while also promoting you and your brand to create a mutual buzz.
5. A Strong Sense of Brand Consciousness
You might say this is not as much a definition of a marketing strategy as much it is about being an association that cares to give back to the society, however, hear us out. The NBA manages it’s business and brand with wisdom, in a way that it works for the greater good of all. With their charitable endeavors, they do not just help those in need but also find a way to keep themselves in the news. The winning, as well as the losing teams, donate some amount to charities, and in 2020, these are ‘handpicked’ by the captains. The NBA has an entire dedicated philanthropic force for social responsibility called NBA cares which works for its ‘conscious’ brand image and even has laid out goals for the next decade.
The key takeaway here is that you, as a brand, need to work on being more involved in special causes that matter; and also what resonates with your brand for real. Charity begins at home; and hence, you also need to be more open to the kind of people you hire. It is not always only about money, and so, as a business, you should try to bridge gaps that otherwise majorly exist. For example, to overcome the evil of racism, you could strive to be an employer of equal opportunities. This, in turn, will also help you become a more diverse brand that learns from its own people. Consciousness is an untapped emotion in the cut-throat world of business, but it also is something that needs to be now revolutionized.
The NBA has used the power of social media and the ability and possibility of being able to connect with anyone, anywhere through the internet. They have worked hard and have persisted to make themselves ‘known’ over the years. Even on a platform like YouTube, NBA is perhaps the only so-active channel that has tons of videos for you to see and enjoy on a regular basis. Despite being an American brand with so many Americans already gaga about them, they decided to not be limited and crossed all borders to become a binding emotion.
The NBA also loves its people and they are never shy to (over)brand their players. Take for example Satnam Singh, the first NBA player of Indian descent. When he came on board, the NBA made sure everyone knew about him through promotions and publicizing (regardless of what happened to his career later on). They also make sure that their players are not stuck in the home ground. The NBA players get to travel to play through bonds and contracts like the Swiss All-Star Basketball Camp in Zug. Hence, employee recognition and mutual appreciation could be another final take away for you here that also resonates with point #4 on the list above.
For all that there is left to say, the NBA in terms of their marketing techniques, sure is the real MVP!