SBD/February 15, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

NBA Creates Facebook Game To Enhance Fan Engagement, Revenue Generation

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The NBA is “introducing a social video game on Facebook this week” called "NBA Legend," which allows users to “create an avatar, join an NBA basketball team, and follow a simulated career,” according to Joshua Brustein of the N. Y. TIMES. Players “will not control the dribbling and shooting, but instead build up -- or purchase -- attributes like speed and skill in order to compete against people in their network.” The game is “part of a wide-ranging social media campaign” by the NBA. With 2.2 million followers on Twitter and more than 7 million Facebook fans, the NBA “has a significantly larger presence than any other American sports league.” The NBA already has deals with Electronic Arts “to make console video games featuring its players and teams,” but league officials said that they “wanted to keep tighter control over NBA Legend, which they want to coordinate with other social media efforts.” Brustein noted NBA officials “chose to work with Lionside, the game developer who created the game, largely to maintain that control.” NBA Digital Senior VP & GM Brian Perez said that the league “sees NBA Legend as a way to keep fans engaged in basketball even when no games are being played.” It also “hopes to draw revenue by persuading fans to purchase virtual shoes, sports drinks and other products that they will use to improve the performance of their avatars.” The NBA is “looking to create deals with sponsors who will pay to market virtual items within the game,” though no such arrangements “will be ready when the game is introduced” (NYTIMES.com, 2/14).
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