By Barry Janoff
November 4, 2014: To help usher in its coverage of the 2014-14 NBA season, Turner Sports has rolled out a multi-platform campaign under the umbrella theme, "Home."
The effort not only touts NBA on TNT, Inside the NBA and TNT's regular season coverage on Thursday nights, but will lead into the All-Star Game and events this February in New York and then the NBA post-season.
The intro spot, shot by Turner Sports, features recording artist Kendrick Lamar performing his song, “i,” interspersed with action showing such players as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry, Joakim Noah, James Harden, Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan.
The season opener also came with a takeover in Times Square that included a live broadcast of Inside the NBA featuring Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal; with the extended campaign to include spots focusing on specific players and games, Internet, social media and fan activations.
The campaign already has had strong results. The network’s opening NBA Thursday doubleheader — the New York Knicks at the Cleveland Cavaliers for James' homecoming, followed by the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Los Angeles Clippers — averaged 2.9 million total viewers and a 1.9 household score, up 21% and 19% respectively over the comparable doubleheader last season.
LeBron and the Cavs alone had four million total viewers, a 50% rise over the comparable telecast window last season, according to Turner Sports.
Turner Sports last month, along with ESPN, signed new TV deals with the NBA beginning in 2016-17 that will ensure coverage through 2024-25. How valuable is the NBA to Turner? According to Turner Broadcasting System president David Levy, "This is a significant deal for our company. The agreement locks in some of the most valuable, original, premium live sports programming that we'll continue to monetize across TNT and all other platforms within our extensive portfolio and will help further grow our businesses into the next decade."
NYSportsJournalism spoke with Matthew Hong, executive vice president and general manager for Turner Sports, about the new NBA season, the NBA on TNT, the All-Star Game in New York and the just-concluded coverage of the MLB post-season.
NYSportsJournalism.com: There are so many new elements to deal with this season, so does Turner approach marketing more as an overview or try to focus on specifics such as LeBron James going home to Cleveland or Kobe Bryant's return from injury?
Matthew Hong: The challenge is fortuitous as a double entendre. We are speaking about the NBA on TNT on Thursday nights as the overview, which has been nice to promote with so many players moving and so many news stories. But it's also about focusing on the teams and the reasons why players did what they did. So the principle concept is about home and how important that is to players and the NBA. LeBron going home, Carmelo Anthony staying home. Teams having home-court advantage.
NYSJ: There have been unexpected situations this season, such as Kevin Durant getting injured and being out for six weeks or so. How do you handle that if you have filmed spots and Durant is central to the action?
MH: That could be a challenge. But the way we have approached it is that Durant, for example, will be back this season and will be important to the Oklahoma City Thunder and the league. You always have to leave room for adjusting. Last season, Kobe was injured, Derrick Rose was out. But they still are important story lines to marketing and to their teams. More challenging would be if a star player retires and isn't coming back. Then you have to completely readjust any campaign he is in.
NYSJ: As elements such as digital, mobile, social media continue to grow, are they encroaching on traditional platforms such as TV and print?
MH: Those elements are increasing but not encroaching. You have to create campaigns using your entire portfolio because you want to reach fans and viewers wherever they are and however they use media. TV is an essential part of what we do. The presence we had in Times Square (on Oct. 28) where we broadcast Inside the NBA live with the entire crew. We [had] fan events, NBA legends, other activations to drive awareness. But the strength of social media certainly is something we try to use to our best advantage because you can reach so many people at any time and in any place. That has to be a major component of any activation.
NYSJ: How important is it that players, and many high-profile players such as LeBron and Kobe, are active on social media?
MH: Fans like having that direct access to players at any time and having that give-and-take with players to who that might otherwise not have what is considered a conversation. Certainly that wasn't the case even ten years ago.
NYSJ: Turner just came off its MLB AL playoff broadcasts and marketing with Bryan Cranston. How would you assess that?
MH: Just as we do with the NBA, we worked very closely with MLB for all of our programming. It was a good platform to take what they have built, the MLB Fan Cave for example, to kick-off some of our marketing initiatives. The humorous campaign we did with Bryan Cranston, where in the long-form version he performed a one-man play re-creating great moments in MLB playoff history, really resonated with people. We were able to use all of our platforms to get the word out that we were the exclusive home to the AL wild card, division and championship series. We got great response from the campaign with Bryan (the extended spot was edited into shorter spots) on TV; on our own digital Bleacher Report platform where it originated, social media and other media activations. And it was helped by the fact that it was great content and had a great focus in Bryan.
NYSJ: It's a bit early, but with the NBA All-Star Game this February in New York (the game will be played in Madison Square Garden, NBA All-Star Saturday Night and other events will take place in Barclays Center), what types of activation might we be seeing?
MH: We play off of every city in which the NBA All-Star Game and events are being held, but it is unique that this season they will take place in New York. Being in Brooklyn (for the pre-game events) and Manhattan (for the game itself) presents some unique challenges logistically. But it certainly is something that we are looking forward to. You will see us embrace the entire Metro area and use aspects of the city are part of how we will use marketing to lead up to the game and then during the weekend itself. More on that to come.
Breaking Balls: Bryan Cranston A Hit In Turner MLB Post-Season Campaign
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