+1(978)310-4246 credencewriters@gmail.com


You may be unfamiliar with the National Basketball Association’s Golden State Warriors (GSW) and the Warriors Gaming Squad (WGS). First review the history of the teams in the case (don’t do external research – it’s not necessary), how the two teams differed from earlier NBA 2K leagues, and the relationship of WGS to GSW. You don’t need to provide a formal answer to the previous sentence in your case response but then go on to answer each of the following questions in your case response:
Answer these questions for the Casper Sleep Inc. case – just state each question and then answer it:
1. Based on Leigh’s priorities, use the 6M model of marketing communications to draft an appropriate set of objectives, target audiences, and messaging choices for the WGS. The 6M model of marketing communications comprises Mission, Market, Message, Media, Money, Measurement. Each aspect of the model has an associated key question, as follows:
Mission – what are the objectives of the communication?
Market – to whom is the communication addressed?
Message – what is the story to be communicated?
Media – where and how will the story be delivered?
Money – how much will be spent to communicate the message?
Measurement – how will impact be assessed?
2. Given the budget of $45,000 for marketing and media in the first year, how should the message(s) in the second quarter be delivered? What media types, events, or activities should be prioritized?
3. How can the profiles of the six drafted players of the WGS be leveraged on social media, especially on Twitch?For the exclusive use of Y. Diao, 2023.
Michael Goldman, Grishma Shah, Nola Agha, and Frances Esguerra wrote this case solely to provide material for class discussion.
The authors do not intend to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a managerial situation. The authors may have disguised
certain names and other identifying information to protect confidentiality.
This publication may not be transmitted, photocopied, digitized, or otherwise reproduced in any form or by any means without the
permission of the copyright holder. Reproduction of this material is not covered under authorization by any reproduction rights
organization. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, contact Ivey Publishing, Ivey Business School, Western
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Version: 2020-09-22
Hunter Leigh, the recently appointed head of esports1 for the Golden State Warriors (GSW), watched the
inaugural National Basketball Association (NBA) 2K League draft on April 4, 2018, from his office in Oakland,
California. A few minutes earlier, he and his colleagues had selected Wallace Williams III as their sixth pick,
completing their Warriors Gaming Squad (WGS) for the first season (see Exhibit 1). As the live draft broadcast
event ended, Leigh turned his attention to his set of urgent marketing communication decisions.
GSW management was excited about the opportunity to “engage with the passionate esports community
while building on the global fan base for the game of basketball,” and Adam Silver, the commissioner of
the NBA, argued that the NBA 2K League was the NBA’s “fourth league”—after the NBA, the Women’s
National Basketball Association, and the G League.2 However, a 2016 analysis of one NBA team’s fans
showed that only 1 per cent of fans were also hard-core gamers.3 Some sports fans also seemed to struggle
with viewing esports players as athletes. For example, in 2015, an ESPN Facebook post profiling League
of Legends player Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok generated substantial negative feedback from some users: “This
is stupid. Don’t compare this guy that sits on a computer all day to athletes who sacrifice bodies on the mat,
court, field, or course.”4 One of Leigh’s priorities was to communicate the WGS brand among NBA 2K
players and fans while ensuring alignment to the GSW brand positioning. With his WGS scheduled to arrive
in Oakland in less than two weeks and the season kicking off on May 1, Leigh needed to quickly develop
a marketing communications strategy to raise the profile of his squad and grow their global fan base as part
of an NBA franchise known for active, innovative, and successful fan marketing.
Esports, or competitive video gaming, was a cultural phenomenon that was growing rapidly around the
world. The 2016 National Football League (NFL) regular season had 204 million viewers, whereas esports
drew 258 million viewers globally in 2017.5 The global esports audience was expected to reach 380.2
million in 2018, with esports enthusiasts making up 43 per cent and occasional viewers making up the
balance; 51 per cent of esports enthusiasts were from Asia.6 A recent US poll found that having fun and
entertainment and enjoying time with friends were the top two reasons why people played and watched
online video games. Adult gamers were also motived by the challenge of the game and enjoyed the
competition. The median age of US esports viewers was estimated at 28, and 39 per cent were between the
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Page 2
ages of 25 and 34 (see Exhibit 2). Local adult gamers were known to gather at gaming-themed nightlife
parties, such as the Folsom Street Foundry’s weekly GameVibes events in San Francisco. Younger gamers
often gathered in high school and college groups, as well as game-specific local groups, such as the Cal
Esports Community Center at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Stanford Video Game
Association. Recent consumer market research reported that 47 per cent of esports viewers also watched
NBA games.7 Esports players were seen as “very unfiltered,” with the industry’s perceived “poisonous,
misogynistic culture” attracting negative media coverage as a result of gender-based harassment and online
bullying in 2014.8 In February 2018, Golden State Warriors esports fired their League of Legends team
coach, Yoonsup “Locodoco” Choi, because of the franchise’s zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment.9
During 2018, the global esports economy was expected to grow by almost 40 per cent, to US$906 million,10
and to exceed $2 billion by 2021.11 Esports generated revenue through investments, brand sponsorships,
prize earnings, in-game items, physical merchandise, advertising, and media deals. Video game developers,
who were responsible for coming up with the idea of the game, and publishers, who were responsible for
the game’s manufacturing, distribution, and marketing, often hosted tournaments, both nationally and
internationally. For example, game developer and publisher Activision Blizzard Inc. ran the Overwatch
League “like a traditional sports league with city-based teams and ownership, regular seasons and playoff
periods” (see Exhibit 3).12 Tournaments, league competitions, and team and individual practices were
distributed globally through digital streaming platforms, including YouTube Gaming, Facebook, Mixer,
and Twitch. Twitch, “one of the highest sources of internet traffic in North America” in 2018, was by far
the most popular platform, with more than 15 million daily active users.13 Each month, Twitch had two
million unique streamers, with 17,000 of them using advertising placement and paid subscriptions to make
money.14 Advertisers bought media placements on Twitch and other platforms to reach their target
audiences (see Exhibit 4). Marc Merrill, co-founder and president of Riot Games Inc. (Riot Games),
explained Twitch’s role in esports:
It would be kind of like Kobe [Bryant] strapping a GoPro to his chest while he’s shooting around
in the gym.
Then tens of thousands of people will tune in to watch him do that, and also be able to chat with
him in real time. . . .
[Esports is] very much a pro/celebrity-driven sport, and a lot of these pro athletes and celebrities
have now created massive fan followings around the world.15
Based on the NBA, NBA 2K was a basketball sports simulation video game series that allowed gamers to
compete as the current NBA season’s players and teams. The game’s objectives coincided with the rules of
basketball, and its presentation resembled actual NBA broadcasts, with commentators and varied camera
angles.16 The NBA 2K series was known for an attention to detail that made play look and feel like a reallife professional basketball game.17 Over the years, the developer had managed to make NBA players more
recognizable to the world by depicting unique physical markers of players, such as their hair, facial features,
physique, and tattoos.18 Animations were becoming more fluid, accurate, and realistic, taking into account
each player’s individual play style, capabilities, and in-game tendencies.19
Since its initial release in 1999, new instalments of NBA 2K had been developed and released annually. NBA
2K18, available on Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, and Xbox
360, launched in September 2017 and sold more copies in the United States than any other sports video game
in 2017.20 By April 2018, the NBA believed that an estimated 1.6 million people played the video game every
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Page 3
day for an average of 90 minutes per day.21 A recent study of more than 7,000 NBA 2K18 gamers found that
31 per cent were avid ESPN content consumers, 28 per cent were avid NFL fans, and 87 per cent were unlikely
to respond to online advertising. They were four times more likely to regularly view YouTube than Twitch.22
One of the top NBA 2K content creators on YouTube, Chris Smoove, had over four million followers. Over
the past 18 years, the NBA 2K franchise had become one of the best-selling sports video game series in the
world, second only to FIFA.23 By the end of 2017, NBA 2K had “half a million subscribers on YouTube, two
million followers on Twitter, and 6.5 million likes on its Facebook page.”24 National Broadcasting Company
correspondent Chuck Todd had a “gamer son [who] mastered the whole Wizards roster without watching a
single game on TV, much to Todd’s confusion. In the end both father and son became season ticket holders
for the flesh-and-blood Washington Wizards, a dream outcome for the NBA.”25
The NBA 2K League was the first esports league operated by a US professional sports league, in partnership
with NBA 2K’s publisher, Take-Two Interactive Inc. (Take-Two Interactive).26 After qualifying for the
league’s combine in February 2018, 72,000 hopefuls played a minimum of 40 games in one basketball
position, with their points scored, assists, rebounds, shot release time, and block efficiency carefully
monitored.27 During the NBA 2K League draft, held in the lobby of New York City’s Madison Square
Garden, a final group of 102 players were drafted to the league’s 17 teams.28 Each team, which had paid
$250,000 to participate in the 2018 season, drafted a total of six players—five players to control each of the
five avatars on the court, and an alternate or reserve player.29 Mavs Gaming, which had the first pick,
selected Artreyo “Dimez” Boyd, a player who had 11,500 Twitter followers, and claimed that he played 16
hours a day. The league’s player retention system had not yet been confirmed, although it was unlikely that
teams would be able to retain more than one or two players for the following season.30
At home, a gamer controlled the whole team and switched between a team’s players on-screen; with the
NBA 2K League, two teams were allowed to compete five-on-five, with a total of 10 individual users
playing at a time.31 Instead of controlling the avatar of an existing NBA player, every drafted player had
their own unique virtual character in the game. A new, unique Windows version for personal computers
(distinct from the typical versions made for Xbox or PlayStation) was developed specifically to facilitate a
fair playing field for the league. The league followed the same format as the NBA: regular season matches
followed by playoffs and a concluding championship competition. Strauss Zelnick, chairman and chief
executive officer of Take-Two Interactive, believed that the joint venture would “fuel the accelerating
growth of esports and take the thrill of competition to exciting new heights.”32
Each NBA 2K League team competed in a four-month season, with 14 regular-season games and three
additional tournaments that served as post-season tiebreakers. For the inaugural season, the teams lived and
trained in their NBA franchise markets and flew to New York for their weekly matchups, which were
streamed live exclusively on Twitch, on Fridays and Saturdays. The WGS trained at the recently opened
Esports Arena in Oakland, which hosted regular events for the local gaming community. Silver was excited
to welcome a new generation of athletes and NBA players into the fourth league of a game that required a
“unique combination of physical and mental skills to excel . . . not that different than in the NBA.”33
Brendan Donohue, managing director of the NBA 2K League, believed that the league presented “another
way to engage with our fans.” As Donohue said,
Two-thirds of our fans on social media are outside North America, and one-quarter of 2K games
are sold outside the continent. We have an online version of the game being played on Tencent in
China that has 34 million registered users. It’s difficult for those fans to attend an NBA game, so
this is another way to reach them. It definitely has a global appetite.34
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Page 4
Kirk Lacob, assistant general manager for the GSW, also saw an “opportunity to engage with the passionate
esports community while building on the global fan base for the game of basketball.”35 In contrast, some
esports commentators were more skeptical. Ryan Morrison from Morrison & Lee LLP, a law firm that
negotiated professional gamers’ salaries, argued:
I don’t share the optimism for an NBA 2K league; I’m not sure the NBA owners really get eSports. . . .
In Dota 2, people are competing for prize pools of some $23-million. That’s exciting. The NBA will
put a lot of money and marketing into it, but I don’t think there’s a huge audience for watching
others play a basketball video game. I don’t think it will compete with the big eSports games.36
Leigh was considered an esports veteran; after helping Riot Games further professionalize its North America
League of Legends Championship Series, Leigh had run esports operations for Yahoo eSports. In his new role
with the GSW in the San Francisco Bay Area, Leigh oversaw all the NBA franchise’s esports activities,
including its League of Legends affiliate team, the Golden Guardians, and its NBA 2K league team, the WGS.
Although Leigh was “eager to hit the ground running” in marketing and developing a fan base for the new
team, he was conscious that a number of uncertainties surrounded the NBA 2K league and his team and that
some viewed this first year as an “experiment, a learning opportunity, to kind of see what happens.”
The GSW NBA franchise had a difficult history as “the Bay’s team.” Although the team had enjoyed recent
success—winning the championship in 2015 and 2017 and the Western Conference title every year since
2015, as well as breaking a number of league records—the unwaveringly faithful “Dub Nation”37 had also
lived through a 16-year playoff drought and a 40-year wait before winning the 2014–15 championship.
Chris Mullin, who was executive vice-president of basketball operations at the time, recalled, “We had
good guys, but we were getting our asses beat. . . . F–k good guys, we want to win.”38 By 2018, the franchise
had an estimated value of $3.1 billion, which was almost double the average franchise value of NBA
franchises that year and more than 11 times the franchise value after the 2006–2007 season.39
The GSW’s offensive strategy, which was “arguably the best in basketball history,” was characterized by
“a high-level form of unscripted, playground basketball.”40 The team’s exciting style of play had been
described as “poetry in motion,” with the selflessness and trust among teammates winning over viewers.41
The organization often discussed their aim to be “innovators both on and off the court,” and they used local
marketing activities and global branding efforts to drive attendance.42 The GSW brand and its players were
prominently promoted on local sports TV and radio shows, as well as through sponsors’ executions on
billboards in the San Francisco Bay area. Such promotional efforts contributed to the 2017–2018 regular
season achieving the second-highest total attendance in the team’s history.43 A shift to valuing digital
marketing activities in terms of impressions and engagement saw the franchise generate over 600 million
engagements across all platforms in 2017, which was just behind the engagements generated by Real
Madrid Club de Fútbol and Fútbol Club Barcelona.44 In 2018, the GSW had 29 million followers across all
social media platforms, and 3.7 million of these followers were on China’s Sina Weibo.45 Leigh also
highlighted how the team did an “extremely good job of community outreach.” For example, during the
2017–2018 season, the Warriors Community Foundation had provided philanthropic community grants and
financial support to over 50 organizations, including well-known and substantial providers of social
services in the region. Individual players were also active in the local community with basketball camps
and community development projects.
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Page 5
Leigh’s first pick, Trong “Shawn Win” Nguyen, was a 23-year-old small forward from Chicago, Illinois,
who was excited to “bring what [he] has to offer.”46 Despite Nguyen’s impressive performances in both the
pro-am qualification stage and combine, Nguyen believed that his positivity was his most valuable
contribution to his new team.47 By April 2018, he had 1,000 Twitter followers. Commenting on his
opportunity to play NBA 2K on a professional level, Nguyen said,
Doing something that I love and beginning it as a career is definitely a dream come true. I’m getting
paid to do something that I love, and that’s what my parents want as well. I’m definitely playing
for them because . . . they came from a different country so that I can have a better future and
support myself. . . . I’m definitely playing for my parents, especially my mother.48
Alexander “Bsmoove” Reese, from Milwaukie, Oregon, described himself as a “silent killer on the court.”49
Although the WGS’s second pick was quieter, the 19-year-old believed that he brought a uniqueness to his
team.50 Reese’s biggest inspirations were his mother, who passed away from colon cancer when he was in
the eighth grade, and his father, who “took phenomenal care of the family” with one job.51 His father’s
ability to care for Reese and both of his mentally challenged siblings taught Reese that he could overcome
anything.52 By April, Reese had 600 followers on Twitter. Speaking to his new career as a professional
NBA 2K player, Reese said, “I’ve always wanted to do something to inspire my mother. . . . I’m trying to
do this for her, just something in my life for her. And I know she’s watching me. It’s just a pleasure knowing
I can actually do something to make her smile up there.”53
The team’s starting point guard, 19-year-old Jordan “Vert” Gates, from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, was a true
“sport-head” gamer. Although he had expected to be drafted by the Boston Celtics, he was happy that he still
ended up “on a really good team.”54 Gates believed that he would bring dedication and competitiveness to the
WGS roster.55 “I hate losing more than I love winning,” he explained. “I have a natural instinct just to outwork
other people, and I feel like if I’m not outworking them, then I’m going to be worse than them.”56 When he
was younger, Gates watched vlogs of professional gamers and knew that he wanted the same lifestyle for
himself.57 His ultimate goals were to be the best player he could be, both on and off the court, and to try to get
his team to the playoffs.58 By April 2018, Gates had 1,400 Twitter followers.
As their fourth pick, the WGS selected the 20-year-old centre Xavier “Type” Vescovi, who wore a pink
blazer, pink tie, and white pants as his draft outfit. Vescovi’s mother had a difficult time grasping her son’s
dedication to playing video games, and the sounds of him practising would often cause her to lay awake in
bed until 3:00 a.m. Vescovi believed that his mother became fully supportive of his new career after she
saw what he could do on the court in NBA 2K.59 Before Vescovi was drafted, he had held three non-esports
jobs in his hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana, and he felt that he and his new teammates were “kind of
underrated and overlooked.”60 By April 2018, Vescovi had 500 followers on Twitter.
Virginia native Cody “Lykapro” Hart was a confident 29-year-old gamer and the self-proclaimed “best PC
Fortnite player in the 2K community.”61 Hart was a “basketball junkie” who played the game every year in
school and every summer in an amateur organization. Unlike his teammates, Hart had been playing NBA 2K
since its very first game of the series. He believed that his experience playing both the physical and virtual
sport of basketball was his greatest contribution to the team and that becoming a professional NBA 2K player
would keep him “connected to the game of basketball.” 62 By April 2018, Hart had 300 followers on Twitter.
Williams, a 19-year-old point guard from Minnesota, wore a gold chain and a bright-red suit jacket to the
draft. He had an affinity for Jordan shoes and kept his social media profiles private.63 By April 2018,
Williams had 300 Twitter followers. He was excited to play for the same organization as one of his greatest
role models, superstar forward Kevin Durant, whose humility and talent greatly inspired him.64
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Rustin Lee, the WGS team manager and coach, believed that the team had “a very diverse group of
personalities.” Some were a little quiet and some were a little more talkative, but Lee was confident that
they were all a great fit for the organization and would contribute to a fun season.65 Forbes’s sports video
game expert Brian Mazique commented positively about the chemistry and temperament of most of the
players on the roster and gave the WGS a draft grade of “B−” for their assembly of a “diverse and talented
group”: “Shawn Win is an outstanding SF [small forward], and like his new teammates (Bsmoove, LeVert,
and Type), they have positive attitudes which should translate to continuity on the court.”66
Leigh’s intent was for the WGS NBA 2K League brand positioning to echo the GSW NBA brand. Lacob
believed that not leveraging the GSW brand in favour of the WGS would be “silly.”67 Leigh expected some
WGS fans to unfairly assume that the GSW would be NBA 2K champions, just as they were in the NBA.
Becoming champions in the NBA 2K League would most likely attract more fans, although Leigh made it
a point not simply to create a NBA 2K League team that played in a similar style to the NBA team. Rather
than replicate the GSW in 2K, Leigh wanted to create some on-court stylistic similarities while keeping the
focus on winning in the NBA 2K League.
Although the NBA required a certain amount of distance between the NBA franchise brand and the NBA
2K League team brand, Leigh tried to keep that distance as small as possible and believed that there should
be a high level of overlap between the two brands: “We would have [had] the name be Warriors Gaming,
but that was too close for the League. It was a little bit of a compromise.” Leigh also considered the San
Francisco Bay Area context, as the team had signed a sponsorship deal with Netgear Inc., a multinational
computer networking company based in San Jose: “International or non-Bay Area fans are increasingly
going to associate the team with the Bay Area, positively or negatively, and Bay Area fans are going to
gravitate towards them, and view them as their own.”
Given the trash-talking culture and in-your-face style of the NBA 2K game, Leigh set clear sportsmanship
expectations with the players, wanting them “to stay on our side of the digital and physical table” and to
subscribe to a more “wholesome, family-friendly, cleaner side of esports.”
Lacob believed that building emotional connections with fans was difficult without “player buy-in” and
that players needed to be empowered to be themselves, and this encouraged genuineness and facilitated
relatability.68 He emphasized the importance of drafting “players who are good people.”69 He said, “I think
it’s just like any sport. We’re looking for players with talent, and we’re looking for players that fit a culture
and can help us build a team. It’s not about being the single best individual; it’s about being part of a unit,
being part of a team and building to something bigger than that.”70
In addition to how well they did in the combine, Lacob considered the gamers’ social and gaming media
activity, believing that how an individual represented themselves was reflective of how they would
represent a team. NBA 2K gamers’ celebrity status was “intrinsically tied to social media,” which was
considered the “lifeblood of gaming.”71
Despite being a digital league, with every game occurring online, the NBA 2K League was a geo-located
esports league, and each team had distinct territories. Leigh was therefore conscious of the need to balance
marketing the WGS online and in-person in the San Francisco Bay Area. With less than a month before the
start of the NBA 2K League season, Leigh needed to develop a strategy, which included deciding how to
invest the $45,000 marketing communications and media budget he had for the first season.
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Leigh wondered how active his players and the WGS account should be on Facebook, Instagram, and
Twitter. He observed that most successful esports branding and communication efforts, at least historically,
were largely composed of players marketing themselves on their individual streams on Twitch and other
social media platforms: “Definitely people are fans of players. The esports industry is built on accessibility
and intimacy of the connection between fans and their favourite player, for better or worse, and the teams
kind of have to ride along that as best we can.”
All NBA 2K League players had personal Twitch accounts and were encouraged to stream their practices
and to retain the revenues they earned from those streams. Leigh knew that “esports players typically
apologized to their fans directly . . . [and] felt the loss moment for their fans”; therefore, the players needed
to find the right “mix of ambition and humility in their tone.” At the same time, Leigh felt that “what the
players are good at is playing games.”
Leigh wondered if the players’ journeys and their new lifestyles as professionals would resonate with fans.
If the transition was dramatic enough, fans might relate to how fame had changed the players’ lifestyles:
These guys are going to go overnight from wherever they were to a professional NBA 2K player
that is living in a fancy loft in Oakland and goes to an esports arena to practice and gets to fly across
the country to play games in New York. Should we be talking about how fancy or nice their life is?
Like what their journey or transition was from wherever they were to wherever they are now?
One of Leigh’s “big unknowns” was how the NBA 2K video game itself would drive interest in the NBA
2K League. He believed that the primary reason that people watched esports was to get better at the actual
game that they were playing; therefore, facilitating increased interest in the game as well as the growing
number of NBA 2K players in the world could drive the WGS fan base. Leigh wondered, “If it really is
education—how to get better at the game—we can highlight our kind of educational videos on YouTube
and see if that’s right. Like how we are running a pick-n-roll or how we think about our zone defence or
whatever strategically we are doing in-game that we think is noteworthy.”
Leigh also considered gamers who were not necessarily interested in just the NBA 2K brands or celebrities
but were interested in the broader esports scene. He wondered whether generating content about how the
GSW created the NBA 2K League team, how the team would mesh from a chemistry standpoint, and what
the coaching philosophy was would appeal to fans. He felt that the storytelling of how the team came
together might pique the interest of esports enthusiasts more than the competitive side of the game and the
drama of the season itself would. Thinking about potential connections with local university gaming groups,
Leigh said, “Our guys would be there, we would love to meet gamers, play games, play 2K, not play 2K,
[and] talk about the scene.”
Leigh had to consider NBA fans who did not play NBA 2K as potential viewers. He, like the rest of the league’s
participating NBA teams, needed to figure out what type of content and communication would work best for
both basketball fans who were NBA 2K players and those who were not NBA 2K players. Silver argued,
We know that the greatest proclivity for being a fan of the NBA is based on the fact that you play
basketball, and I think for anybody who plays basketball at any level, you can relate to our players, even
if you can’t possibly dream of ever doing what they’re doing. It has a unique meaning to you, I think no
different to a weekend golfer, who then watches Jordan Spieth and says, wow, look what he’s doing.72
Whereas the GSW had a marketing budget of about 8 per cent of their approximately $400 million in annual
revenues, Leigh was working with no more than $45,000.73 The typical sponsorship fee for one of the weekly
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Page 8
gaming events in the San Francisco Bay Area was $7,500 per event, while the production costs of creating a
piece of content was estimated at $3,000. The remarketing costs of promoting content on each of the social
media platforms varied and changed regularly, although Leigh did not expect to spend more than about $500
per promoted content per platform. A large outdoor billboard in San Francisco cost on average of $8,000 for
a four-week period, while the weekly cost for a set of 19 radio spots in the local market averaged
approximately $2,000. Leigh had already allocated $3,000 of his budget to WGS merchandise for giveaways.
Leigh weighed his marketing communications strategy options and the need to firm these up quickly. He
wanted to reach out to the basketball and gaming communities to see where the WGS might find relevance,
feeling that “We should take it as more of a learning effort on our part in year one.” When Leigh considered
that an NBA team had never marketed its own geo-located and affiliated NBA 2K League team before, it
was clear that there was very limited groundwork to build on. He believed that their time would be much
better spent running cost-effective experiments in year one that would set them up for year two. At the same
time, Leigh and his WGS represented an NBA franchise known for active, innovative, and successful fan
marketing. The season was kicking off on May 1, and Leigh knew that his WGS players and brand needed
to perform for fans not only on the virtual court but also in the digital and physical market.
As Leigh returned to his office after the live draft broadcast event, he knew that he only had a few days to
make important marketing communications strategy choices. How should he navigate the similarities and
differences between the GSW NBA team and the WGS? What messaging would be most effective to
achieve his communication objectives? What role could the WGS players have in the plan? How should he
best prioritize his marketing communications and media budget?
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Page 9
are drafted into
organized in
Game Developer and
Brands and
Take-Two Interactive
Netgear Inc.
distributed on
Golden State Warriors
Note: WGS = Warriors Gaming Squad; NBA = National Basketball Association.
Source: Adapted by the authors from “An Introduction to the Esports Ecosystem,” The Esports Observer, accessed July 14,
2020, https://esportsobserver.com/the-esports-eco-system/.
Played an Online
Video Game with
Multiple Players,
Participated in a Video
Game Competition, or
Watched a Live or
Recorded Video of
People Playing Video
Games Online (%)
Played Games
Watched Games
Both Played
and Watched
Games (%)
Gamers, 14–25
Years Old
Gamers, Adult
Played or Watched
Online Video Games in
the Previous 12
Months (%)
Male Female
Source: Adapted by the authors from Emily Guskin, “Teenagers Are Fueling a Competitive Gaming Tidal Wave,” Washington Post,
March 9, 2018, accessed April 9, 2020, www.washingtonpost.com/news/sports/wp/2018/03/09/teenagers-are-fueling-an-e-gamingtidal-wave.
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Overwatch League (Activision Blizzard)
Main Owners
Robert Kraft (New England Patriots)
New York
Jeff Wilpon (New York Mets)
Los Angeles
Noah Whinston (Immortals)
Los Angeles
Stan and Josh Kroenke (Kroenke Sports & Entertainment)
Jack Etienne (Cloud9)
Mike Rufail (Team EnVyUs)
Hector Rodriguez (OpTic Gaming)
Ben Spoont (Misfits Gaming Group)
San Francisco
Andy Miller (NRG Esports)
NetEase Inc.
Kevin Chou (KSV Esports)
Comcast Spectator
North America League of Legends Championship Series (Riot Games)
Main Owners
100 Thieves
Dan Gilbert (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Echo Fox
Rick Fox
Team SoloMid
Andy Dinh and Søren Bjerg
Team Liquid
Peter Guber, Ted Leonsis, and Jeff Vinik (aXiomatic)
Jack Etienne (Cloud9)
Clutch Gaming
Tilman J. Fertitta (Houston Rockets)
Counter Logic Gaming
Madison Square Garden Company (New York Knicks & Rangers)
Wesley Edens (Milwaukee Bucks)
OpTic Gaming
Neil Liebman (Texas Rangers)
Golden Guardians
Joe Lacob (Golden State Warriors)
NBA 2K League (Take-Two Interactive Inc. and NBA)
Main Owners
76ers Gaming Club
Philadelphia 76ers
Blazer5 Gaming
Portland Trail Blazers
Bucks Gaming
Milwaukee Bucks
Cavs Legion Gaming Club
Cleveland Cavaliers
Celtics Crossover Gaming
Boston Celtics
Grizz Gaming
Memphis Grizzlies
Heat Check Gaming
Miami Heat
Jazz Gaming
Utah Jazz
Kings Guard Gaming
Sacramento Kings
Knicks Gaming
New York Knicks
Magic Gaming
Orlando Magic
Mavs Gaming
Dallas Mavericks
Pacers Gaming
Indiana Pacers
Pistons Gaming Team
Detroit Pistons
Raptors Uprising Gaming Club
Toronto Raptors
Warriors Gaming Squad
Golden State Warriors
Wizards District Gaming
Washington Wizards
Note: NBA = National Basketball Association.
Source: Compiled by the authors from “NBA 2K League Holds Inaugural Draft,” NBA Communications, April 5, 2018, accessed
July 8, 2020, https://pr.nba.com/nba-2k-league-holds-inaugural-draft; Patrick Garren, “Updated: A List of All the 2018 NA LCS
Teams, Their Owners and Who’s Backing Them,” Esports Observer, November 21, 2017, accessed July 8, 2020,
https://esportsobserver.com/na-lcs-2018-reported-team-owners; Darren Heitner, “Full 12 Franchises Announced for Initial
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Media Platform
Direct Mail
Facebook News Feed
Facebook Messenger
Google Ads Search
Google Ads Display
Bing Ads
Average Cost
per Thousand
Source: Compiled by the authors from Anya Pratskevich, “Google Display Ads CPM, CPC, & CTR Benchmarks in Q1 2018,”
AdStage, accessed July 8, 2020, https://blog.adstage.io/google-display-ads-cpm-cpc-ctr-benchmarks-in-q1-2018; Dan Shewan,
“The Comprehensive Guide to Online Advertising Costs,” WordStream, April 20, 2020, accessed July 8, 2020,
www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2017/07/05/online-advertising-costs; “Digital Marketing vs Traditional Media the Cost Differences
CPM,” Social AXcess, May 7, 2019, accessed July 8, 2020, www.socialaxcessconsulting.com/2019/05/07/digital-marketing-vstraditional-media-the-cost-differences-cpm/; Maxwell Gollin, “How Much Do Ads Cost on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn
in 2019?,” Falcon.io, January 7, 2019, accessed July 8, 2020, www.falcon.io/insights-hub/topics/social-media-roi/how-much-do-adscost-on-facebook-instagram-twitter-and-linkedin-in-2018.
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Esports was a form of sports where primary aspects of the sport were facilitated by electronic systems; the input of players and
teams as well as the output of the esports system were mediated by human-computer interfaces.
“Warriors Gaming Squad to Participate in Inaugural Season of NBA 2K League,” Golden State Warriors, December 14, 2017,
accessed April 9, 2020, www.nba.com/warriors/news/warriors-gaming-squad-2k-league-20171214; David Aldridge, “Not Just a Game:
NBA 2K League Quickly Becoming a Serious Business for All,” NBA.com, April 9, 2018, accessed April 9, 2020,
Josh Daniels, “Do Basketball Fans Care about eSports? See What the Data Says,” Affinio, October 6, 2016, accessed April 9, 2020,
Aaron Mickunas, “The Golden Guardians Got Introduced to the Crowd at Last Night’s Warriors Game,” Dot Esports, December 15,
2017, accessed April 9, 2020, https://dotesports.com/league-of-legends/news/lcs-team-golden-guardians-introduced-crowd-goldenstate-warriors-game-19576.
Brett Molina, “Why Watch Other People Play Video Games? What You Need to Know about Esports,” USA Today, May 6, 2019, accessed April
9, 2020, www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2018/01/12/more-people-watch-esports-than-x-dont-get-here-basics/1017054001/.
Newzoo, 2018 Global Esports Market Report, 2018, accessed April 9, 2020; Molina, op. cit.
Eoin “SilentEcho” Bathurst, “The Average Age of Esports Viewers Is Higher Than You May Think, Says GameScape from Interpret, LLC,”
The Esports Observer, February 24, 2017, accessed April 9, 2020, esportsobserver.com/average-age-esports-viewers-gamescape.
Nick Wingfield, “Feminist Critics of Video Games Facing Threats in ‘GamerGate’ Campaign,” New York Times, October 15, 2014, accessed
April 9, 2020, www.nytimes.com/2014/10/16/technology/gamergate-women-video-game-threats-anita-sarkeesian.html.
Dennis Young, “Fired League of Legends Coach: The Story I Told ‘Wasn’t Sexually Explicit,’ but Could Be Construed or Interpreted
as Sexual Harassment,’” Kotaku, February 26, 2018, accessed April 9, 2020, compete.kotaku.com/fired-league-of-legends-coachthe-story-i-told-wasnt-1823347061.
All dollar amounts are in US dollars.
Molina, op. cit.
Brad Stephenson, “Twitch: Everything You Need to Know,” Lifewire, November 9, 2019, accessed April 9, 2020,
Marc Merrill, “The Sit-Down: Marc Merrill, Co-founder and President, Riot Games,” Sports Business Journal, May 30, 2016, accessed April
9, 2020, www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Journal/Issues/2016/05/30/People-and-Pop-Culture/The-Sit-Down.aspx.
Seth Macy, “NBA 2K18 Review,” GameSpot, September 28, 2017, accessed April 9, 2020, www.gamespot.com/reviews/nba-2k18review/1900-6416773.
Steven Petite, “‘NBA 2K18’ Review,” Digital Trends, September 19, 2017, accessed April 9, 2020, www.digitaltrends.com/gamereviews/nba-2k18-review.
Brian Mazique, “‘NBA 2K18’ Was the Highest-Selling Sports Game of 2017 in the United States,” Forbes, February 12, 2018,
accessed April 9, 2020, www.forbes.com/sites/brianmazique/2018/02/12/nba-2k18-was-the-highest-selling-sports-game-of-2017-inthe-united-states/#55b5527b6565.
Aldridge, op. cit.
Alex Fletcher, “Top 10 NBA 2K Audience Insights,” LinkedIn, December 20, 2017, accessed April 9, 2020,
Matt Porter, “Managing Director of the NBA 2K League Brendan Donohue on How NBA Esports Will Find Success, and How Gaming
Is Changing Our Personal Lives,” Daily Mail, October 5, 2017, accessed April 9, 2020, www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/esports/article4951538/NBA-2K-League-managing-director-ll-success.html.
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accessed April 9, 2020, www.sbnation.com/2017/9/18/16271244/the-evolution-of-nba-2k-2k18-run-the-neighborhood.
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9, 2020, https://compete.kotaku.com/the-nba-really-wants-you-to-watch-people-play-a-basketb-1825118976.
“Warriors Gaming Squad to Participate in Inaugural Season of NBA 2K League,” op. cit.
Stephen Harrison, “The Big Breakaway,” The Outline, March 7, 2018, accessed April 9, 2020, www.theoutline.com/post/3616/thebig-breakaway-nba-esports-league-nba-2k?zd=1&zi=ioetjb5d.
Brian Mazique, “‘NBA 2K’ League Unveils Draft and Lottery Details,” Forbes, March 9, 2018, accessed April 9, 2020,
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2020, https://apnews.com/f7099862bfc94b10a5ab1361d92bdefa/New-game-in-town:-NBA-tips-off-NBA-2K-League-with-draft.
Noah Frank, “Why the Wizards, NBA Are Betting Big on Esports,” WTOP, December 8, 2017, accessed April 9, 2020,
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accessed April 9, 2020, www.sporttechie.com/nbas-adam-silver-welcomes-new-generation-athletes-nba-2k-league-esports/.
Rachel Brady, “NBA Launches Own eSports League as Competitive Gaming Explodes,” Globe and Mail, November 12, 2017,
accessed April 9, 2020, www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/basketball/nba-stakes-out-territory-in-competitive-gaming-with-its-ownesportsleague/article36718726.
“Warriors Gaming Squad to Participate in Inaugural Season of NBA 2K League,” op. cit.
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Brady, op. cit.
The Warriors were called “the Dubs” in a truncated pronunciation of the “W” of Warriors. Dub Nation was how fans referred to themselves as a
collective whole. Instead of calling themselves “The Warrior Nation,” the fans began to call themselves the “Dub Nation.”
Ric Bucher, “‘We Were a Bunch of Draymond Greens’: How ‘We Believe’ Warriors Shook Up NBA,” Bleacher Report, March 20, 2017, accessed
April 9, 2020, www.bleacherreport.com/articles/2698627-we-were-a-bunch-of-draymond-greens-how-we-believe-warriors-shook-up-nba.
Christina Gough, “Average Franchise Value of NBA Teams from 2001 to 2020,” Statista, February 27, 2020, accessed April 9, 2020,
www.statista.com/statistics/193442/average-franchise-value-in-the-nba-since-2000; Christina Gough, “Golden State Warriors
Franchise Value from 2003 to 2020 (in Million U.S. Dollars),” Statista, February 20, 2020, accessed April 9, 2020,
Chris Herring, “The Beautiful Chaos of the Warriors’ Offense,” FiveThirtyEight, May 19, 2017, accessed April 9, 2020,
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April 9, 2020, www.pressreader.com/usa/san-francisco-chronicle/20180511/281788514699618.
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Kurt Badenhausen, “New Digital Strategy for Golden State Warriors Pushes Revenue Up 300%,” Forbes, February 23, 2018,
accessed April 9, 2020, www.forbes.com/sites/kurtbadenhausen/2018/02/23/new-digital-strategy-for-golden-state-warriors-pushesrevenue-up-300/#775022da329b.
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“WHY WE PLAY | SHAWN_WIN,” YouTube video, 3:41, posted by “Warriors Gaming,” July 21, 2018, accessed April 9, 2020,
“WHY WE PLAY | BSMOOVE,” YouTube video, 2:59, posted by “Warriors Gaming,” June 29, 2018, accessed April 9, 2020,
Akeem Glaspie, “Local Gamer Jordan Gates Selected in First NBA 2K League Draft,” Berkshire Eagle, April 7, 2018, accessed April 9, 2020,
“WHY WE PLAY | VERT,” YouTube video, 2:58, posted by “Warriors Gaming,” July 16, 2018, accessed April 9, 2020,
“WHY WE PLAY | TYPE,” YouTube video, 3:16, posted by “Warriors Gaming,” July 27, 2018, accessed April 9, 2020,
Ibid.; “WGS IS IN THE BAY!,” YouTube video, 4:51, posted by “Warriors Gaming,” April 29, 2018, accessed April 9, 2020,
Cody Hart (@LYKaPRO2k), “Best PC Fortnite players in the 2k community. plz @ me,” Twitter, March 30, 2018, accessed April 9,
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“WHY WE PLAY | LYKAPRO,” YouTube video, 2:20, posted by “Warriors Gaming,” June 23, 2018, accessed April 9, 2020,
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2018, accessed April 9, 2020, www.instagram.com/p/BhKygurAmnF.
“WHY WE PLAY | SLEEP,” YouTube video, 3:08, posted by “Warriors Gaming,” July 14, 2018, accessed April 9, 2020,
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Brian Mazique, “NBA 2K League Draft: Team Grades and Analysis,” Forbes, April 15, 2018, accessed April 9, 2020,
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Matured,’” The Esports Observer, January 5, 2018, accessed April 9, 2020, www.esportsobserver.com/interview-kirk-lacob-golden-guardians.
“Golden Guardians’ Kirk Lacob on how they’ll build a Steph Curry,” YouTube video, 12:20, posted by “Blitz Esports LoL,” December
1, 2017, accessed April 9, 2020, https://youtu.be/PXBVeQjjsYQ.
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Ben Fischer, “NBA 2K Focused on Building Star Power,” Sports Business Journal, May 7, 2018, accessed April 9, 2020,
Nathan, op. cit.
Steve Olenski, “How CMOs Should Be Managing Their Marketing Budgets,” Forbes, July 27, 2018, accessed April 9, 2020,
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