• Nic Makepeace

Welcome to the NBA Bubble: Three themes to look out for in the NBA bubble

Life in the bubble has begun. 22 NBA teams made their way to their new home in Orlando last week and fans are already getting an unprecedented view into the lives of NBA stars in the bubble.


Within a week a Twitter account (@NBABubbleLife) documenting players activities in the bubble has reached 90k+ followers, players are setting up their own discos and fishing has become the latest craze. Players, teams and the league are quickly realising the huge opportunity that faces them. The lack of media presence compared to usual, increased downtime and lack of distractions means that players have a massive once-in-a-lifetime chance to build their brand. But more importantly, they have an opportunity to give fans a real-time, behind-the-scenes look at their journey in the bubble, and perhaps even a chance to replicate what made the Last Dance such compelling viewing - access.


I’ve highlighted three key themes to watch out for in the bubble in the coming months, as the life of an NBA player goes under the microscope.


1. Players telling their own story


The decrease in media presence in the bubble combined with NBA teams only sending a skeleton Digital / Communications team means players have the opportunity to tell their story themselves. We’ve already seen the proliferation of Instagram Lives in the lockdown continue into the bubble, but more pertinently players are starting to create and curate their own content. In particular, Philadelphia 76ers rookie Matisse Thybulle has started his own vlog, filmed, edited and starred in himself.

This clip shows the importance of players being able to tell their own story, or as 76ers Forward Tobias Harris puts it: “We can make our own documentary when we win the ‘ship [championship]”. The players’ ability to put across their own unfiltered view and experiences without any restrictions serves to reinforce one of the trends we at Seven League outlined back in 2019 of “Athletes Becoming Media”.


Thybulle in this example, has even seeded his content to his fellow players, with teammate Tobias Harris promoting the vlog through posting clips from it. Seeding content through different accounts is massively important to a piece of content’s success as it significantly increases its reach, as we consistently advise our clients at Seven League. This only goes to show that the younger generation of athletes understand how to market themselves now more than ever and this bubble will reflect that.


2. Bubble-specific content strategies are the way forward


In this unique situation a team's content strategy and Tone of Voice has never been more important. There is a marked difference between teams who have altered their approach for the bubble and ones who have kept the same approach. Two particular teams who have stood out are the Dallas Mavericks and the Phoenix Suns. Both teams have taken very different approaches in terms of Tone of Voice - with the Dallas Mavericks opting to celebrate the outgoing personalities of their players in a humorous tone of voice and the Phoenix Suns opting for an all-business approach.

The Dallas Mavericks have shown the importance of maximising the access a content team gets to their players and making the most of their most engaging players. Whether it’s highlighting Luka Doncic’s trick shots or showcasing the perspective of a player through Tim Hardaway Jr’s “The Life Of A Playa in the Bubble” behind the scenes vlog - they have kept a light-hearted tone throughout to engage with fans and showcase the fun, human side of the bubble and their young team within it.


Conversely, the Phoenix Suns have taken a serious approach, focusing on the basketball side of the bubble with their #DontSleepOnBasketball vlog series and through cutting down on their post volume.

Whilst this is a wholly different approach, both teams’ clear strategy helps build their team’s narrative going into the restarted season, which has to be seen as a success.


3. Personality wins when it comes to players


This is a perfect opportunity for young players to become stars. The increase in behind-the-scenes footage and player free time means that the bubble is an ideal place to highlight players with engaging personalities. A prime example of this is 2019’s NBA Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic, who’s trick shots, love for fishing and football talents have reflected his down to earth, likeable personality.

If you combine this personality with on-court performance, that is the perfect combination for a true global star to be born and Luka Doncic has all those ingredients. Furthermore, the Dallas Mavericks have an ideal content strategy to highlight this and potentially capitalise on any success that Doncic and the Mavericks have when play returns.


Summary


It’s been a fascinating first week of following life in the NBA bubble and it’s only just begun. Once play starts on July 30th, we will get the chance to follow the journey of these NBA teams in a completely unique way through the eyes of players themselves, teams with strong content strategies and off the court with the biggest personalities. Make sure you stay tuned - as we might be watching the next Last Dance unfold in real time right in front of our own eyes.

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