BSSP, Sausalito / 2K SPORTS / 2019
For decades, sports video games have pushed out the same cover design over and over again—a stock photo of a star player in an action pose. For the 20th anniversary of NBA 2K, we wanted to break out of the sea of sameness.
NBA 2K approached us to help launch the newest iteration of their basketball simulation game to consumers worldwide with a cover art that never been seen in a sports video game.
Their goal was to grow the fanbase and increase unit sales, while strengthening their position at the core of the basketball and culture by speaking to both video gamers and basketball fans alike.
Project scale and volume:
NBA2K is the worldwide leader in basketball simulation games. The covers featured LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ben Simmons and Travis Scott as a limited edition. To date, over 10 million copies have been sold worldwide.
The cover is a crucial piece of creative for NBA 2K. Not only does it serve as the first look at that year’s game, but it is utilized as a key visual across the entire game’s life cycle. Additionally, from a non-business perspective, being on the cover is seen as an extreme honor for NBA stars. It is a global statement that they are among the elites. It was critical that we capitalize on both sides of that spectrum, creating a key visual that both served as an iconic piece of marketing, but also held up the athletes and their position on the cover as something to aspire to.
NBA2K sits at the intersection of the basketball, culture and video gaming communities which makes the target audience very diverse. Basketball fans, gamers and musicians, artists are all part of our target audience.
For decades, sports video games have pumped out the same basic cover design—a stock photo of a star player in an action pose. For the 20th anniversary of NBA 2K, we wanted to break out of that sea of sameness and create something unique and impossible to ignore. Instead of only focusing on the player’s appearance, we focused on their story. Every player has a narrative that the world can be inspired by. So, we asked our cover athletes, LeBron James, Ben Simmons and Giannis Antetokoumpo, to provide us with a list of words and icons that represent their backstory. We then took those words and turned each cover into its own story full of easter eggs and insights. And because we designed it with ease of customization in mind, the internet took the design and ran with it, creating custom covers for anyone and everyone in culture.
Beyond just unit sales, our cover had a very real impact on basketball culture as a whole. Immediately after release our design was adopted and remixed by the internet, people took our basic design elements and created custom versions for everyone from The Office’s Michael Scott to the Flex Seal infomercial guy. Thousands of custom covers were created and shared online and on social.
Value for consumer
With such an iconic and culturally relevant cover, purchasing the game and having it on your shelf is like a badge of honor—especially the top level sku. It shows that you know the game, you know the sport and you’re active and up-to-date with what’s now in culture.
Over 10 million units worldwide, breaking the U.S. record for a sports video game sales.