Today, the NBA's highlight reel features more than scoring drives, blocked shots and buzzer-beating three-point plays. Woven into the fabric of daily life, the league informs music, fashion and seemingly all aspects of popular culture. Off the court, its superstars battle for social justice and assist underserved communities.
In a sense, the NBA represents a transcendent way of life for countless fans across the globe, and the league celebrates such elevated status in fresh work developed with creative agency Translation and voiced by Idris Elba.
"This is the game of basketball—poetry in motion, science fighting art, legend burned into imagination," Elba says in a minute-long anthem spot that dropped Saturday as the NBA playoffs began. "This game takes everything you give and gives back even more. These are the lines and colors of history ... the fight of a lifetime, and a family that chooses you."
The acclaimed actor's earnest, smooth delivery washes over scenes of basketball's ever-expanding appeal. We see bold moves from LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Giannis Antetokounmpo, among others; Vince Carter's physics-defying windmill dunk in the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest; and footage of Boston Celtic Jaylen Brown and Orlando Magic players advocating for disenfranchised youth and combatting inequality.
Director Emmanuel Adjei, best known for music videos from Beyoncé and Madonna, creates a seamless ebb and flow. The NBA's worlds between and outside the lines resonate as one, buoyed by an understated, triumphant score from Academy Award winner Jon Batiste.
Having faked out big-time football and baseball as the pro sport du jour—especially in the U.S.—it makes sense for the league to tout its power to inspire and entertain.
A second spot advances such themes:
The tagline, "That's Game," throws down the gauntlet, marking the NBA as the sport that matters most. Yes, soccer has similar prestige oversees, but the NBA's vaunted status can't be denied. Underscoring that global allure, the ads will air in 15 languages, with local celebrities handling the narration in select markets.
"Our history will always be profound and memorable, but so is what we are experiencing with today’s game," NBA chief marketer Kate Jhaveri tells Muse. "We have incredible stars who go on the court every day and give the game their all, influence culture with their swagger, and go into their communities to make a difference. That is what these spots convey." The campaign will serve as the primary promotional platform for the NBA's 75th anniversary celebration during the 2021-22 season.
Translation executive creative director Jason Campbell says his team strove to "help tell the story of this game's impact in culture and around the world. Every hand that contributed to this work understood that truth, and we are excited to continue unpacking its meaning."
"It's also a reminder to celebrate all aspects of life collectively," adds Adjei. "It's full of surprises, just like basketball, and that's what makes the sport so beautiful."
ESPN tossed up a different approach in its recent NBA playoff spots, taking us inside players' heads as they tune out the world to focus on winning a championship.