How the NBA’s Player Association Builds Fan Community with Its Annual Mobile Tour
The activation’s first stop: Phoenix. At all three stops, visitors could scan the “Click & Receive” QR code printed on the exterior of the bus for complimentary snacks from Black- and brown-owned restaurants and shops. They would also be entered into the sweepstakes for the activation’s daily giveaway.Photo: Courtesy of NBPA
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When it wraps its tour this Friday, the 2023 #NBPA450Gives Mobile Tour will have hit three cities and made countless impressions on both existing and new NBA fans. This is the third year of the mobile tour—produced by the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) and THINK450, the association’s commercial arm—and it is the first time the tour has been extended to three markets.
For the previous two years, the mobile activation stayed in one market for two weeks, but this year, producers had an elevated bus to work with and a presenting sponsor, the video game NBA 2K, which wanted to hit Houston. With the bus parked in Los Angeles, why not visit other team markets along the way? Cue two more stops in Phoenix and San Antonio.
“In the past, we’ve been in one market for 14 days; this year, we’re in three markets for 14 days; next year, who knows? We might be in six markets for 28 days,” said Que Gaskins, president of THINK450. “We’re just hoping that this thing continues to grow, and as it grows, it’ll grow the footprint of what we’re able to do for our players and fans.”
The activation is an opportunity for basketball fans to win prizes from NBPA partners and support local Black- and brown-owned restaurants and shops in their communities. It also provides, of course, special guest appearances from current and former NBA players. This year, visitors were treated to appearances that included Cedric Ceballos in Phoenix and Jae’Sean Tate and Cuttino Mobley in Houston. The tour is also a way for the NBPA to help promote what it calls “firebrands,” which are brands NBA players have founded, invested in, respect, or endorsed.
“Fans continue to expect the opportunity to be in close proximity to those players that they really love,” said Keisha Wright, senior vice president of partnerships and purpose at THINK450. “So with everything we do, we’re trying to create that opportunity—and it’s not just coming in, doing something, and then leaving, but how can you leave a lasting impact on the community?”
Creating community is one of the tour’s main goals every year. While the bus was at its first stop in Phoenix at the Egyptian Motor Hotel, the activation worked with the hotel’s on-site dining experience, Chilte, a Black- and Latino-owned restaurant, to give out free pastries and coffee. In Houston, the activation partnered with local roaster Greenway Coffee Company, which gave out samples of its Rookie Blend, which it developed with Rockets player Tate.
“We love to give fans a chance to get up close and personal, and that goes along the lines of building community,” Wright explained. “Sometimes other leagues will do huge things, where 60,000 people come in, so you don’t get that feeling. We try to create that up-close and personal experience.”
Keep scrolling for more insights from Gaskins and Wright, plus images from inside this year’s #NBPA450Gives…
The high-tech bus featured glass windows on one side (pictured) and digital screens on the other. When the bus wasn’t officially activating, the windows had pull-down shades that weren’t completely opaque, so passersby could “sort of see what was in there and build that anticipation,” Wright said.
The NBPA enlisted contemporary artist Rosanna Choi Kalis to create this special installation that acted as a fun photo moment. The piece features 14 hand-painted pairs of sneakers (as a nod to the tour’s “14 days of giving”) hung from the bus’s ceiling with string. Wright said because the bus obviously moves, the installation had to be built on a grid that could be taken down and reinstalled at every stop.
Presenting sponsor NBA 2K was a major touchpoint on the bus. Visitors could interact with these special gaming cabinets meant to look like “old-school arcade games,” Wright said, and play the newest iteration, NBA 2K24.
Panini, a sports and entertainment collectibles brand, was also a sponsor of the activation and powered the player appearances. It also incorporated other touchpoints throughout the activation, including this special display of trading cards.
In San Antonio, the bus stopped at the city’s Main Plaza, where local vegan bakery Southern Roots was on hand to pass out treats.
Spurs legend Sean Elliott stopped by in San Antonio to meet and mingle with fans.
Crowds gathered at the Houston stop, where the bus has been stationed since Nov. 24. Catch its final event at the Toyota Center from noon to 8 p.m. Dec. 7.
The activation’s first stop: Phoenix. At all three stops, visitors could scan the “Click & Receive” QR code printed on the exterior of the bus for complimentary snacks from Black- and brown-owned restaurants and shops. They would also be entered into the sweepstakes for the activation’s daily giveaway.
Link to Article: https://www.bizbash.com/bizbash-sports/media-gallery/22880722/inside-nbpas-mobile-tour-with-2k