The National Basketball Association (NBA) is no stranger to change. Iconic figure Michael Jordan has passed the torch to Kobe Bryant, for example, and Bryant has passed it on to LeBron James. As well-known faces like James, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry gradually make way for another generation of superstars, we are now witnessing a new NBA era – headed by Luka Doncic, Jayson Tatum, Victor Wembanyama and Anthony Edwards. 

A new focus 

While NBA continues to promote its established stars, there has been a notable shift in its marketing strategy to spotlight young talent. Established athletes such as James and Curry still topped the league as the most viewed players across NBA social media platforms over the last two seasons: 1.9B (1.3B in 2023) and 1.7B (881M in 2023) views respectively.  

During the 2022–23 season, James was the only player who surpassed 1B views. In 2023-24, the total has risen to four, and this is a result off an uplift in NBA’s social media efforts. Along with James, Wembanyama and Doncic gathered over a billion views for the new guard, Tatum had 504M views and Edwards appeared in the top 10 for the first time (569M views). 

Social media presence 

NBA’s social media game is unmatched. From posting game highlights and top plays to detailed game recaps, the league ensures that fans engage in a way that suits them. If you watch NBA games, use the NBA app or follow on socials, you will have noticed the increasing prominence of certain players. This isn’t a coincidence. NBA is strategically promoting these players who it sees as the ‘face’ of the league, whether based on their on-court success or their levels of fan engagement. 

Timing and success 

NBA’s marketing strategy has been perfectly timed. This season’s playoffs have seen Doncic, Tatum and Edwards progress further than James, Curry and Durant, once again underscoring the new guard’s ascendance. At the time of writing, the Doncic-led Mavericks and Tatum-led Celtics are battling it out to be NBA champions, and it’s more than likely that the victors will cement themselves as the new face of the league. NBA has successfully positioned itself for this situation by ensuring the visibility of these players across nationally televised games during the regular season. Boston had 26 games televised, Dallas 19, and the next closest was San Antonio with 11.

Similarly, across socials both teams in the finals have been featured more frequently than in previous seasons. This finals matchup is perfect for NBA, as two of its main new guard athletes are presented on the biggest basketball stage, allowing the league to continue bolstering its marketing efforts. 

Global reach 

NBA’s marketing efforts span further afield than North America. Basketball has become an increasingly global sport; the European market is at the forefront of interest outside the US. Five out of the last six MVP winners have been European (Serbian Nikola Jokic in 2021, 2022, 2024 and Greek Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2019, 2020). The introduction of 20-year-old Frenchman Wembanyama has bolstered European interest and NBA has recognised this by adding two international games in Paris for the 2024–25 season: Wembanyama will be playing in both.  

To accommodate rising global interest, NBA also adjusted its game timings on weekends so fans not in the US are able to watch live games. Instead of being on in the early hours of the morning, the schedule has been updated with a selection of games starting between 18:00 and 22:00 UK time. As an avid NBA fan, this has greatly enhanced my viewing experience as it enables fans to engage with live games in their own time zone. Ultimately, along with pushing new stars across socials, NBA enhanced their season schedule to provide their athletes with as much global visibility as possible. 

Merchandise and popularity 

The popularity of the new stars is reflected in NBA jersey sales; Wembanyama, Tatum and Doncic are all in the top six this year alongside James, Curry and Giannis Antetokounmpo. 2024 also saw Edwards – with his Michael Jordan-like aura and tenacious playstyle – make the top 10. With the likes of Durant and Jokic falling outside the top five, it’s another example of the significant impact NBA is having by focusing on new faces and specific marketing.  

The popular video game series NBA 2K is another avenue that provides athlete visibility and it’s almost guaranteed that either Doncic, Tatum, Wembanyama or Edwards will be featured as the coveted NBA 2k25 cover star later in the year. This is a tactic we have seen previously with the likes of Devin Booker for 2k23. 

NBA’s approach to promoting its new generation of stars is a masterclass in strategic marketing and global fan engagement. By learning from their tactics, other sports organisations can similarly foster the growth and popularity of their sport and their own rising talents. 

Key takeaways for rightsholders  

  1. Maximise marketing: market your rising superstars to the maximum, especially if they have global reach outside of the sport’s main geographical market. More fans across more countries can only improve visibility and engagement. Use social platforms, including league-specific apps, to lean marketing towards these stars. 
  2. Leverage international opportunities: host events in regions where your international stars have a strong following to enhance your reach on a global stage. The NBA’s efforts with Wembanyama in France exemplifies this strategy, promoting a specific athletes media presence and personality to a wider audience. 
  3. Adapt to international audiences: provide live game coverage that accommodates different time zones, e.g. NBA’s early weekend games for European viewers, so the league can tap into a popular market and continue to grow engagement for international athletes. 
  4. Seize the moment: position your marketing strategy to capitalise on the most significant parts of the season. The new faces of the NBA storyline have been prominent throughout the playoffs and will reach a climax at the finals. 


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