That was the feeling most expressed in today’s “Sports in the New World Order” session on the first day of the Brandweek Sports Marketing Summit and Upfronts. Nadine Dietz, Adweek’s Chief Community Officer, sat down with Kate Jhaveri, CMO of the NBA, Heidi Browning, CMO of the NHL, and Barbara McHugh, SVP Marketing at MLB. They discussed exactly how these three leagues turned in times of need and what we can expect from the future of sport in the post-pandemic of the “new world”.
Jhaveri reflected on the NBA troubles of 2020 that led to the Covid crisis, with the deaths of former long-time NBA commissioner David Stern, Kobe and Gigi Bryant, and social injustice: “Fans have greater expectations of brands and hold them responsible to address problems around the world. They are looking for brands that go beyond rhetoric and take action. ”
The NBA used their platform to win fans, but also to raise money for social welfare. For example, the association has generated over 45 pressure-sensitive adhesives to really remind people how to stay mentally and physically fit. In order to bring to life the organization’s principles regarding justice and diversity, the NBA Foundation was established to eradicate economic inequalities. It had to be long-term to be effective, Jhaveri explained. (The foundation will work to fuel economic growth in the black community with an initial contribution of $ 300 million over the next decade.)
Browning discussed the positives that come from the need to pivot content strategies. Browning worked with her team of “content DJs” to adapt, get back into the archives, and mix them with today’s highlights – on the second screen experience and creator culture. These two areas will have priority until 2021.
“Taking off the helmets of the players and changing the culture has been an exercise for the NHL so that the players know they can only care about the team, while at the same time engaging the fans and giving them a glimpse into their lives . “
Barbara McHugh shared the main MLB pandemic strategies: prioritizing as many digital platforms as possible (meeting the fans where they are), presenting the players and their personalities, and empowering the players to engage with the fans. These examples included the launch of MLB Originals on YT (nearly 30 pieces of content about MLB players) and other MIC’D UP content.
“We had to think bigger and stronger,” she explained. “This year we continued to focus on those connections and … really met our fans where they were.”
The Brandweek Sports Marketing Summit was a mini-meeting for this panel. In the first months of the pandemic, they worked together on “The Real Heroes Project,” where 14 leagues came together with 72andSunny to create, plan and launch a massive campaign for all leagues. For the first time in history, these leagues came together and joined forces in hopes of providing their fans with the inspiration usually comes from the sport, with athletes flipping their jerseys and creating video tributes by putting the name on their jersey by replacing a doctor, nurse or paramedic in fighting the pandemic. The campaign achieved 3.5 billion impressions and the Adweek cover story won the Folio Eddies Best Single Article in the B2B Media & Entertainment category.
These “most powerful women in sport” see hope, agility, reinterpretation and perseverance for the coming year.
This week, head to the rest of the Brandweek Sports Marketing Summit to learn more about the world of sports marketing and what’s coming in 2021.