Over the last 20 years, the NBA 2K franchise has steadily built a loyal following of sports gamers, edging out more well-funded competitors. As they began to reach a saturation point among their core audience, they wanted to draw more casual gamers and basketball fans into the franchise while continuing to strengthen their core. With the introduction of a new open-world concept called “The Neighborhood,” NBA2K finally stepped outside the confines of the basketball court. Our challenge was to help the brand take a similar step—from basketball icon to cultural icon.
We helped NBA 2K identify a new consumer target representing the 20 million-plus gamers living outside their core. Their passion for basketball is an extension of their overall creative identity. They don’t play video games to pretend to be someone else but rather to be a better version of themselves.
Behind every name is a narrative that shapes its legacy. In anticipation of the 20th-anniversary release of NBA 2K19, we created a campaign that empowered gamers to craft their own legacies and make their names known to all.
The moment our campaign dropped, it permeated popular culture. It was featured on NBA TV, FS1, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, The Washington Post, the New York Times, Forbes, and HypeBeast, among many others. Bleacher Report created a mock cover inspired by J.R. Smith’s Finals blunder, which helped turn the cover artwork into a meme that made its way through the internet. And, 2K19 drove franchise sales to an all-time high.
To launch the campaign and reveal the highly anticipated cover athlete, LeBron James, we used the words that have come to define him. These words inspired a cover and spoken word poem representing LeBron’s impact on basketball and culture. We then told his story through the voice of those he’s influenced, capturing 2Chainz, Rapsody and Cleveland native rapper, Jurreau reciting the poem.