NBA 2K League & Brand Partnerships: Q&A with Head of Business Development Lindsay Ullman

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May 5th marked the beginning of the NBA 2K League’s third season. For the uninitiated, the NBA 2K League is an esports league joint venture between the National Basketball Association and Take-Two Interactive, maker of the ever-popular NBA 2K series of Basketball games (a new issue is released each year). You can learn more about it watching our Brand Storytelling Live Stream on the subject.

It’s an extremely important moment across multiple categories: esports, sports (period!), and broadcasting. In a moment where athletes can’t be together to play on their teams, esport athletes are providing much needed relief for sports fans who are finding that the supplemental experience of esports is helping them get through the “sportless” global pandemic. And with lots of new attention comes opportunity for esports brand partners.

Brand Storytelling caught up with Lindsay Ullman, Head of Business Development, NBA 2K League at the NBA, to get a better understanding of what some of those opportunities might be, and advice on how to break into esports as a brand:

The NBA 2K League season is in full swing! How’s it going so far?

It has been incredibly exciting to get our season tipped off and we feel very fortunate that we’ve been able to move to remote gameplay. It has been fantastic to see the additional opportunities this has brought for both the league and our partners; one big achievement being our matches broadcast for the first time on linear television on ESPN2 as well as Sportsnet in Canada.

What partner initiatives are you engaged in at the outset of this season?

We’re really excited to welcome new partners in GameStop, Jostens, and SAP for the start of the season as well as welcoming back some of our partners from previous seasons and finding new ways to activate. Whether it’s HyperX who was a partner during our Three for All Showdown tournament in March and early April, AT&T who will remain a marquee partner throughout the entirety of our season and tournaments, or Panera Bread who delivered our NBA 2K League draft, we are really thrilled to have a great roster of partners on board for the 2020 season.

What makes a great NBA 2K League partner?

Great NBA 2K League partners are brands who want to enhance the fan experience while working together to create unique solutions that support their own brand objectives. This can come in lots of different forms - it could be custom apparel through Champion or creating content for the community like Bud Light is doing through their presenting partnership of “BFW Live” a weekly show that airs on Twitch. Both of these activations bring value to the community as well as the brand.

For brands looking to break into esports, what should they do to narrow their focus?

They should have a good understanding of what they’re hoping to achieve when entering esports and brands shouldn’t be scared to find the right fit for them in terms of partners. Brands should have clear goals and objectives and make sure they ask questions of the organizations they are evaluating about their values and growth initiatives.

For brands who aren’t keyed into esports, should they start paying attention? Why?

Absolutely. They should pay attention because of the young, multicultural, highly-engaged audience that consumes content differently than fans have historically. It’s an extremely passionate, tight-knit community that is looking for partnerships done in an authentic way.

Where can folks tune in to the 2K League season action?

You can tune into the NBA 2K League at 7 p.m. ET Tuesday, May 19 on ESPN2 and Sportsnet (Canada) and Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays on ESPN’s digital platform, and the NBA 2K League’s Twitch and YouTube channels.