The Philadelphia 76ers, the first National Basketball Association team to land a kit deal (and one of the most popular basketball franchises on social media in 2019), recently promoted two women to their executive positions.
Former CMO Katie O’Reilly will begin her seventh season with the 76ers as CRO (after her maternity leave). After five years with the 76ers operator Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, Brittanie Boyd was promoted to SVP Marketing at the subsidiary. In her new role, O’Reilly will be responsible for ticket sales and service and sponsorship sales and activation, while Boyd will lead the team’s branding, marketing and business solutions. Boyd will also be responsible for the 76ers’ business development in the areas of game presentation, social media, digital content and video content.
Both have extensive experience in sports marketing, but like many professionals in the field, they have faced an unprecedented challenge that turned their initial campaign ideas upside down. Speaking to O’Reilly and Boyd, Adweek learned that instead of defying the obstacles, they scrapped and turned their business plans overnight. As a result, the sports organization launched more than twice as many fan engagement initiatives on average compared to previous years and led a multi-million dollar pledge to fight systemic racism.
Describing the period as “really fascinating” and “invigorating” for the marketing department of the HBSE marquee, O’Reilly noted that the innovation and creativity that has evolved over the past seven months under her leadership as CMO has been “astounding” .
“At the beginning of the pandemic, it was about using our platform to amplify important messages, be it a PSA to stay safe and healthy or support our front line workers,” said O’Reilly. “We had a campaign where we actually worked with other sports teams in town.”
The two-minute film commercial “Brotherly Love” was launched in April with the Eagles, Phillies and Flyers to emphasize the unity and brotherhood of the strain caused by the pandemic. This sparked another campaign, #PhilaUnited, which highlighted uplifting stories about important workers and fans in the local community.
“It was about finding new ways to motivate our fans because they stopped playing games and we weren’t putting on a show like we used to,” said O’Reilly.
She also noted that the two main problems her peers wanted to solve were how to reach fans digitally and virtually while feeling connected to the experience, and how to connect people with people at a time when they were traditionally Jersey Shore are enthusiastic about basketball. The 76ers are in their off-season. Other initiatives the team debuted in 2020 under O’Reilly’s leadership included partnering with the Giant Food Company to donate meals to health care workers and support minority restaurants in Philadelphia to encourage citizens to choose.
“I think the silver lining in this break and what we’re learning from marketing in COVID is … to accelerate and accelerate the natural evolution [the] need to move to a stronger digital marketing approach, ”said Boyd, mentioning that only a small fraction of NBA fans around the world can ever attend a live event. “It has always been our job to find ways to get in touch digitally with our fans.”
Part of that engagement was a massive, company-wide Black Lives Matter campaign that spanned a minute and a half across the 76’s social channels and a $ 20 million pledge from HBSE to revitalize Black’s economy, which included communities and small business owners by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) in Philadelphia and Newark. As a former vice president of partnerships at HBSE and co-chair of the organization’s DEI committee, Boyd played a key role in unveiling the action plan to advance gender equality. She is also a co-founder of Black Women in Sports and Entertainment (BWISE), an organization created to build a support network for black women and a pipeline of diverse talent in the industry.