NBA ‘Dream Big’ to Celebrate Black History Month

League initiatives look to further increase diverse fan base

Professional basketball remains one of America’s most popular sports as is evidenced by the fervor surrounding the NBA All-Star Game and playoff season. But the league is also looking to expand and further diversify its fan base and has several initiatives in place to do just that.

BLACK ENTERPRISE spoke with Saskia Sorrosa, Vice President, Multicultural/Targeted Marketing for the NBA, about the league’s Dream Big campaign. Developed in conjunction with GlobalHue (No. 1 on the BE ADVERTISING AGENCIES list with $83 million in revenues), the initiative celebrates black history and runs throughout February.

Here’s what she had to say:

BE: Tell me a little bit about the Dream Big campaign and what you hope to accomplish with it.

Sorrosa: The platform has five major components. The first is our on court activation.  On MLK day we had teams wearing the Dream Big shooting shirts. Teams that played on that day on nationally televised games were wearing Dream Big shooting shirts, so that really tipped off the celebration under this platform. We also combined that with a new spot that we have with Chris Bosh that talks about inspirations and dreaming big. We actually used real professionals in the TV spot so we really took it beyond the court to people living out their dreams. We had a real doctor in the TV spot, we had a real judge and a real photographer. We collaborated with Ray Allen on a shooting shirt for Black History Month that all the teams will wear during the first two weeks of the month. They have the hashtag #NBABHM and a logo man with four prominent African Americans within the logo man, sort of embedded into the logo.

Then we partnered with a company called EverFi to launch a curriculum called the 306 – African American History course, which is all about the contributions of African Americans and the country, celebrating all the contributions of what black history means in the US. That program is being launched in schools across all 30 team markets. In addition, we’re partnering with some media in the space to extend our message beyond our institutional inventory which is traditionally what we do as a league. We really wanted to make sure that we were reaching this community at all times in the places where they live, work and play.

Finally, we’ll have an activation at NBA All-Star 2014. This is the first year that we’ll have some type of presence at All Stars. We’re going to have a Dream Big station at Jam Session which is our interactive fan engagement, I call it theme park.  We take over the convention center and the city and we turn it into a basketball theme park for fans.

What’s the ultimate goal? What are you looking to achieve with this initiative?

Sorrosa: I think as we’ve gotten more sophisticated as a league in speaking to our fans in our diverse fan base, we understand the importance of having to be relevant. We really wanted to make sure that our fans felt like they were a part of the NBA family and that we celebrated their contributions across the board from all of our fans. More than that, what’s interesting about this platform is that it’s relevant for anyone because it is all about inspiration and dreams. We wanted to build something that was developed with the right cultural insights but that was relevant for all of our fans and inclusive of all of our fans.

Are you looking to do something similar with some of the other groups?

Sorrosa: We do already. We actually have a Hispanic platform that we launched five years ago called ene-be-a (NBA in Spanish). That platform is also a season-long platform. It’s everything from activations at All Star to a uniform program that we have during the month of March. I’m not sure if you’ve seen it but it’s where the players wear the El Heat or Los Lakers, Los Spurs jerseys.

Do you have an idea in place of what determines whether this is successful? Is it a 10% increase in merchandising sales in the African American market or 12% for the Latino market? Is there anything like that? Is it that specific?

Sorrosa: The way we measure success is by consumption metrics and the specific business areas that we measure are fan base growth, viewership and attendance. Those are the three main things. We don’t have a projected, if we grow by 10% and three seasons of that determines we’ve been successful, it’s more if we see growth year over year, we attribute that to the programs that we have.

For Hispanics as an example, before we launched the campaign, we were actually seeing declines in our Hispanic fan base growth. Since we launched the campaign, we are out pacing the growth of the Hispanic population by 38%. Consumption metrics are the same across viewership for example. Our viewership growth with Hispanics is over index in comparison to non-Hispanic growth. Hispanics are really sort of driving the growth in that specific business area and attendance is the same. Hispanic attendance since we launched the campaign has been up 40%.

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