Stars full of eyes. It’s Unot Sunday not like others to basketball observers and fans. Next night, Monday, February 21st at 2am in France, the NBA All-Star Game will take place in Cleveland. This is a gala meeting between the best players on the planet. A match whose stock goes beyond the sports framework, as it has become, over the years, a pillar of the development of the prestigious American league.
Although television audiences fell by 18% in 2021 compared to 2020 – which can be explained by the effects of the health crisis – the All-Star Game remains the most watched game of the last NBA season, with 5.94 million cumulative American viewers. according to Nielsen Data. When we know that the current TV rights contract binds the NBA to its broadcasters from 2016 until 2025 for a sum of 27 billion dollars (approximately 24 billion euros), we become aware of the importance of this match to maintain the audience and therefore good. relationships.
The All-Star Game has established itself as a crucial meeting of the NBA season, becoming one of the pillars of its business and in particular of its international opening. ETC.This goes beyond a simple random shift of the event off American soil, as in 2016 when the celebrations took place in Toronto, between Canadian neighbors. Just listen to Nicolas Bermond, director of media distribution for NBA Europe, talk about the global distribution system to understand this: “Sunday’s match will be broadcast in 215 territories, commented in 60 languages through 120 TV channels, including 46 in Europe.“A broadcast that goes far beyond the US framework.”This year, despite a health context that does not help, there will still be a good number of foreign channels present in the country, including some special correspondents from a Mongolian TV channel, who will provide follow-up and comments.added Tom Marchesi, communications director for NBA Europe.
Not bad for an event, the first edition of which took place on March 2, 1951 in Boston in front of just over 10,000 viewers! An attendance that was already much higher than the average for other meetings, which was around 3500 spectators.
The governing bodies saw her as a promising sign, a ray of sunshine in their relationship when she really needed it. Because at that time basketball did not have a very good image with the general public. The very young NBA (founded in 1946) wanted to create an event from scratch in order to show the sport in a better light than the scandals that had just spread, especially at the university level.
The idea of this exposing meeting between two teams made up of the best players was the fruit of discussions between three of the most influential figures in the NBA in the 1950s: Maurice Podoloff, the league chief, Haskell Cohen, the publicity manager. and Walter A. Brown, owner of the Celtics franchise. The latter was so convinced of the future success that he not only offered to host the match in the Celtics hall, but also to cover all the expenses incurred by the event. Garbage then was very household, which is no longer the case today.
However, the economic aspect of the Game of Thrones at home can not be overlooked, if only because in 2010, the All-Star Game set the attendance record for a basketball game. 108,000 people gathered at the Cowboys football stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Beyond the audience and participation, the impact of the event on the host city is huge, as Boris Helleu, a teacher-researcher and lecturer at the University of Caen, specializing in marketing, points out. Sport: “This is a major and very prominent issue in the United States. In general, it is the host city that communicates about this, not the NBA itself. We are counting on 150,000 people to come from abroad and all the figures we find in the latest editions are around $ 100 million (local revenue).“This year, it is Cleveland who lives in the rhythm of the NBA for a whole weekend, in the hall of his Cavaliers team, but also everywhere in the city.
It’s really into a wonderful weekend of animation that the All-Star Game has transformed over the years. For more than 70 years, the NBA has tried to make it evolve into three days of great basketball celebration, keeping the game between star players at the top of the gondola. For the NBA, this is an opportunity to present itself to a much larger audience than one who perseveres in regular season and play-offs.
We start on Friday with a famous match where personalities from music, cinema or even fashion challenge each other with an orange ball in hand. In the evening takes place the Rising Stars. It’s a meeting between some of the best young players of the moment, formerly called Rookie Game or Rookie Challenge. Saturday is dedicated to various races, including the unacceptable three-point shooting race and the very spectacular dunk race. Some entertainment fills the day on Sunday as they await the climax that closes the weekend: the game of stars. Attention in the NBA is total during these three days.
NBA media coverage through this All-Star weekend is global and international, especially on social networks. These more than complement the coverage of the event as they have become the main entry point for the general public. It is now simplistic or even inaccurate to measure the audience for an event such as the All-Star Game only through the television audience. For example, during the 2021 edition, Instagram fan engagement broke all records, as Nicolas Bermond recalls: “The NBA generated more views than any other account on the platform over the All-Star weekend on Sunday 2021. Including Instagram wrappers [vidéos courtes]The NBA generated more than 139 million views in content uploaded on Sunday.“
Famous influencers are welcome at the event, to cover it in their own way and to allow it to be presented differently to a large audience, as Boris Helleu points out:We remember the three Tik Tok stars, Addison Rae, Charli and Dixie D’Amelio, invited with great fanfare to the Chicago event in 2020, to promote it to their millions of subscribers.“
Nicolas Bermond confirms this: “Last year, everything was closed, but in Chicago, many influencers were there and covered the event when they were not professional journalists or TV broadcasters. This All-Star weekend also allows most partners to be invited and serves as a communication platform that the NBA uses to make announcements: “It was during an All-Star weekend that we announced the launch of the African Basketball League, for example.” Technological innovation is also present here. Thus, among all the weekend activities, the NBA holds a Technology Summit where big names of companies with influence in this field come to discuss the progress that will come from the technical point of view and also, many, in digital media.
For Boris Helleu, “What is interesting is that the All-Star Game has always been used by the NBA as a lab for digital innovation. Too early, in the early 2010s, we remembered the partnership with Twitter, for things that now look outdated, like special emojis. We typed the hashtag with the player’s name and next to it we had the head of the same player.
Innovations, the purpose of which is often to help broadcast All-Star Game or other games throughout the season. In this regard, in 2015, the NBA made Sunday and Saturday games fully available in virtual reality.
A technology that will require further improvement before it is democratized, but that symbolizes the NBA’s desire to be able to bring a basketball game to fans around the world as if they were there, without having to leave the room their living room.
“Between partner activations (local or digital), technological innovations, music, concerts to be held, etc.… NBA eventually becomes a lifestyle brand“, Concludes Boris Helleu. A sign that allows Cleveland to be the epicenter of world basketball this weekend.
Alexandre Martin, TrashTalk Development Director