The NBA Finals are over which means we have officially entered the dark days of sports. I don’t like baseball and golf is completely lost on me so I have to wait until august when football returns before I have anything but comics to obsess over. However that is neither here nor there, I wanted to post about something I noticed in ESPN’s coverage of the 2015 NBA finals. In my opinion the NBA has always done the best job advertising the sport and creating narrative around playoff series and this year’s finals was the perfect storm. You had the biggest athlete in the world on one side and the up and fresh new face of the NBA on the other. The series was surprisingly close considering the difference between the two rosters and there was a new subplot coming out of each game.
ESPN took total advantage of this by being flexible and nimble (owning the broadcasts also helped) creating new ads for each game based on what had occurred in the previous game. For example after game 3 everyone was talking about Dellavedova so he was featured in the game 4 ad along with copy talking about hustle. Before game 6 the copy talked about the Warriors seeking to be crowned champs vs the city of Cleveland rising up. As well done as the quick turnaround on the advertising is I found a smaller media trick even more impressive. ESPN is famous for it’s “This is Sportscenter” ads, as an athlete you know you’ve made it if you get to be in one, thus it makes sense ESPN has versions featuring both LeBron James and Steph Curry.
As someone who watches Sportscenter every morning I noticed something, if the Warriors won the previous game all of the “This is Sportscaster” spots would be Curry, if the Cavs won they would be LeBron. Between the series advertising and ESPN’s rotation of “This is Sportscaster” spots the series narrative really took on a life of it’s own. After game 3 there really was a feeling that Cleveland could pull it off (even though they definitely couldn’t) and by the end of the series we all knew it was over. That narative and feeling of momentum was reinforced by ESPN’s selective ad placement and it added to the excitement of the Finals. I love the NBA finals and I really appreciate the way ESPN built the hype around the series and made it almost inescapable by tailoring it’s advertising the way they did. Cheers ESPN.