Cannes Lions

You Seeing This?

R/GA , New York / ESPN X NBA / 2019

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Overview

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Credits

Overview

Background

Given the ongoing evolution of fan behavior, which includes an increased reliance on social media for highlights rather than watching entire games, our brief was to increase live viewership of the 2018 NBA Playoffs and Finals on ESPN, with a primary focus on the millennial audience (18–34).

Our target was a 20% increase in tune-ins year-on-year.

Idea

ESPN’s “You Seeing This?” was a real-time media campaign that used tantalizing live NBA footage to get millennials to switch on the game in that very moment.

After decades of promoting before games with TV commercials, ESPN stopped expecting millennials to commit to appointment viewing ahead of time. Instead, they found them on social media when they should have been watching the game, and showed them what they were missing.

It forced fans to prioritize in the moment:

Instagram will still be there in an hour.

LeBron’s last chance to make the final might not be.

And it turns out, the fear of missing epic Playoff basketball was too great to ignore.

Strategy

Drive FOMO in real-time.

When amazing moments happen in the NBA, viewership spikes.

That’s because online word-of-mouth spreads like wildfire and it drives fans to tune in to see what they’re missing.

They see the tweets. The see the Instagram Stories and Snap reactions.

Group chats blow up. And they turn on the game so they can feel a part of the conversation.

We amplified this trend by adopting the real-time behavior and language of fans — like that friend who messages you to let you know the game’s good. We found our millennial fans where they were online when they should of being watching the game, and when incredible stuff happened we spoke to them the way their friend would… “You seeing this??”.

Execution

Deploying tantalizing live creative via a smart channel strategy:

Instead of just hyping games before they started, we delivered LIVE game moments via social channels as they happened- in real time. A LeBron comeback? Fans would see it as it was happening, while they were swiping through Instagram stories or Tinder, or watching Twitch.

And when they did, custom calls-to-action got them to rethink their priorities. Instagram would still be there in 30 minutes, would LeBron?

Leveraging technology in surprising ways:

We rebuilt the NBA’s chatbot on Facebook Messenger, training AI to send unmissable action & awesome plays to fans the moment they happened, based on the volume of crowd reactions in the arena.

We even found people in the real world and ‘hacked’ the Airdrop feature on their iPhones to send them hyper-contextual messages based on what they were doing and links to watch the game.

Outcome

While the entire live entertainment category was suffering declining viewership, tune-in for the NBA playoffs on ESPN was 70% higher than in the previous year, exceeding all projections and targets.

The campaign generated 380 million clicks to watch the game, and fans exposed to the campaign in off-channel media experienced a 24% lift in tune-in intent.

This culminated in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals becoming the most watched NBA game in ESPN’s history.

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