THE RISE OF NBA 2K
It was 2009, In Australia the South Dragons won the National Basketball League championship beating the might of the Melbourne Tigers and Kobe Bryant led the Lakers to NBA glory in the US.
When it came to actually playing the game in Australia boys participation rates were low when compared to other organised sport ranking 6th with only 118,700 actively involved and when it came to playing the video game version, NBA Live dominated the home on all platforms Xbox and PS3.
So when Take 2 Interactive (2K) approached us to promote their basketball video game NBA2K we said “sure no problem” after all, we were a challenger agency that helped challenger brands.
However the reality of the task was going to be epic and a lot of things had to go our way to ensure the success and longevity of this franchise in Australia.
CONVERT THE CONVERTED
We’d been working with 2K on previous titles and did discover very quickly that gamers were as fanatical about gaming as sports fans were about sport. More importantly word of mouth travelled very fast across both circles – so if we could somehow overlap the two and create advocacy amongst these groups we would over time reach critical mass and dominate the landscape.
We also concluded that if you already had a gaming console at home and participated in basketball you more than likely attended a basketball game and reached out to the Sydney Kings to test this Hypothesis. The Kings at the time were under a revised management structure they had been kicked out the comp 2 years prior so their return was somewhat of a homecoming and very well supported by the press.
We presumed that their first home game would be well attended and negotiated a sponsorship deal. In our view the deal had to include Interactive Display Units inside the entertainment centre foyer so fans could actually receive a ‘hands on’ experience of the game and we also needed to reward fans for supporting the Kings with discount vouchers to buy the video game and free merchandise in the form of 2K branded basketball singlets.
We began to single out key opinion leaders within the community who were also editors or freelance writers for the major gaming or sport publishers online and offline and invited them to attend a Sydney Kings game and then come back to 2K HQ and have a hands on one on one feel for the game.
The results were impressive NB2K received rave reviews by press and fans alike and the spike in sales across Sydney was significant enough for us to know we had a formula to build on.
CONVERTING THE MASS GAMING MARKET
The following year the plan was to scale so we extended our home game sponsorship with the Sydney Kings, Melbourne Tigers and NZ Breakers and cornered the largest basketball fan base in two countries.
TV was always going to be part of the mix even though audiences were declining across some categories we knew that sports mad Aussies will watch grass grow on TV if you turn into a sport. We pursued the broadcast sponsorship that not only placed NBA2K TV commercials in every live game but also included repeats, integrated billboards and a live in game competition giveaways.
Back on the gaming front Gamespot, IGN, Kotaku, Game Informer & mass media publishers News Corp and Fairfax all offered rave reviews of the gameplay the depth of the story line and impressed at how each year the developers stepped up the experience. Let me be clear – nothing kills a bad product like good marketing –the product absolutely has to stand up on its own for any strategy to really succeed and thankfully the NBA2K video delivered in spades.
So we had both mass market and niche channels working for us in tandem adding layers and layers of advocacy an influence in turn converting casual gamers across to this franchise as well as ensuring the hardcore remained faithful.