On March 11, the NBA became the first major sports league in North America to suspend its season in response to the current global pandemic. The league’s decisive action set the precedent for many sports leagues around the world, which soon followed suit with similar suspensions. Despite the lack of action on the court, the league remains as busy as ever educating the public and unifying its extended family of players, coaches and fans, showing the world that the NBA cares.
The NBA quickly created a global community and social engagement campaign called “NBA Together,” which supports, engages, educates and inspires youth, families and fans in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The campaign leverages four pillars: Acts of Caring, #NBATogetherLive, Expand Your Community, and Know the Facts to help keep communities connected and informed.
Acts of Caring
The pandemic is having an immense impact on daily life around the world, with access to everyday activities and resources constrained. To help combat the crisis, NBA athletes and organizations are showing their passion and creativity in launching dozens of initiatives to support their communities. The NBA and WNBA, along with team governors and players, have raised over $73 million to date. 2018-19 Kia NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo, along with fellow NBA stars Kevin Love, Blake Griffin and No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft Zion Williamson, have all donated money to support arena staff in wake of the NBA hiatus.
In other cases, teams, such as the Atlanta Hawks, partnered with local organizations to set up a pop-up grocery store; the Cleveland Cavaliers hosted a blood drive; and the Texas Legends, an NBA G League team affiliated with the Dallas Mavericks, provided dinner to local hospital staff. According to the NBA, this initiative will further inspire 1 million acts of kindness through virtual engagement and virtual volunteerism.
Expand Your Community and #NBATogetherLive
Many young people are currently unable to play with their teams and peers, so NBA Together’s Expand Your Community pillar is helping to keep them virtually connected and engaged. Resources include Jr. NBA at Home, an interactive content series providing basketball skills and drills featuring NBA and WNBA players. The series has already garnered more than 26 million video views. Another resource, the Maths Hoops App, helps students develop their fundamental maths skills while playing a 3-point shooting game. Fans can also join Instagram Live videos, interactive Q&A sessions, and watch classic NBA games, such as LeBron James’ 61-point performance when he was a member of the Miami Heat in 2014 by following the #NBATogetherLive hashtag and official NBA Instagram and Twitter accounts.
Every weekday at 3:00 p.m. ET and 4:00 p.m. ET, a member of the NBA family participates in a live interview or takes questions from fans on the NBA’s Instagram or Twitter. Recently, San Antonio Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan hosted an #NBATogetherLive with Sports Psychologist, Dr. Kensa Gunter.
Know the Facts
In a world full of information (and misinformation), perhaps the most important NBA Together pillar is Know Your Facts, which provides fans with accurate information about the coronavirus pandemic. NBA & WNBA players, legends and coaches are filming public service announcements (PSAs) from home that share messages of support and tips for reducing risk, staying healthy and practicing social distancing. More than 30 players and legends have participated in PSAs, generating more than 53 million video views across the league’s Instagram Twitter, Facebook and TikTok platforms since the first PSA launched on March 13.
Independently, Golden State Warriors superstar and Rakuten partner Stephen Curry led an impactful Instagram Q&A with Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The conversation leveraged Curry’s global social media following to get vital information about the pandemic in front of a younger demographic, communicating the seriousness and facts of the situation. In less than a week, the nearly 30-minute video was seen by viewers in 146 countries, racking up a remarkable 93,000 hours of watch time. Since his conversation with Dr. Fauci, Curry and his SC30 Inc. team have put together a COVID-19 resource guide with numerous helpful resources to build awareness, slow the spread of COVID-19 and support communities in need.
Stephen and his wife Ayesha Curry are also supporting local schoolchildren in need through their Eat. Learn. Play Foundation. Curry explained on Instagram that there are 18,000 children in Oakland that rely on their school for at least two meals each day. In the same post, he announced that the Eat. Learn. Play Foundation would be making donations to the Alameda County Community Food Bank and the Oakland Unified School District to help ensure that these children don’t need to worry about where their next meal is coming from while schools are closed.
Building partnerships on shared values
“Since Rakuten was founded in 1997, we have been a values-driven company focused on empowering local business owners and connecting communities,” commented Rahul Kadavakolu, Rakuten’s Vice President of Global Marketing & Branding. “When Rakuten partnered with the NBA in 2017, we did so not only on the basis of our shared vision of providing world-class sports entertainment and programming, but also because of our shared values and community-first approach. The league’s strong and principled response in the face of unprecedented circumstances reinforces all of our reasons for partnering with the NBA. The league and players are shining examples to sports and non-sports organizations around the world.”
For fans in Japan, the NBA and Rakuten are distributing additional viewing content to NBA Rakuten subscribers. Varying by subscription plan, the lineup of additional premium content brings classic games and timeless matchups to the service, such as the Los Angeles Lakers vs. Chicago Bulls game showcasing the showdown between Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. NBA Rakuten also distributed the NBA 2K Players Tournament in Japan and launched the new original program Terakoya NBA that covers everything from game strategy to statistical analysis during the suspension period. The service continues to produce its own original shows such as Daily9 and Oretachi no NBA, ensuring that basketball fans stay up-to-date on all the latest off-court happenings in the League.