How the NBA Uses Push Notifications to Celebrate History in the Making

Team Braze By Team Braze Jan 4, 2024

When it comes to marketing best practices, personalization is a given. Audiences expect timely, engaging content curated to their interests, especially when they’ve taken the time to share their preferences. Few brands accomplish this as well as the National Basketball Association (NBA), which ensured a key moment in basketball history—LeBron James surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the NBA career scoring record—could be experienced collectively by fans all over the globe.

At our Forge conference this fall, we chatted with Kevin Scheitrum, the NBA’s Associate Vice President of Content Personalization and Optimization, to explore the strategy behind this campaign. What indicators did they have that push notifications would be a winning formula? How did segmentation factor into their approach? Let’s get into what Kevin had to say about his team’s efforts and learnings.

The lead-up: Staging the audience

Like many content-driven brands, the NBA’s primary goal is to meet fans where they are and engage them on all platforms. The difference for the NBA, Kevin explained, is the sheer volume of content. There are thousands of stories to be told, and they fall into two camps: Moments that transcend the

sport (like LeBron’s record) and the day-to-day heartbeat of the league (player and team performance). It’s imperative, then, to tap into audience priorities through segmentation and the right opt-ins.

The NBA app allows fans to pick their favorite players and teams, giving unparalleled insight into what resonates with the fanbase. This is exactly how Kevin’s team strength-tested their audience’s appetite for LeBron’s record-breaking story. Kevin said that knowing the confidence they’d built in their messaging in connection with these personalized player alerts gave his team “a lot of runway” to experiment with generally relevant news like LeBron’s new scoring record. That, in turn, meant they “could deliver some of the bigger sends while still not abusing trust.”

The result? A green light to go all-in for the sport’s next big moment.

Capturing the moment

As LeBron’s career scoring numbers continued to climb, Kevin felt confident the NBA audience was primed for a robust, multi-faceted messaging experience exploring different angles of LeBron’s record-breaking accomplishment. This kind of collective triumph, he elaborated, is exactly what the NBA strives to deliver:

“I feel like there's a mandate to say that if you're following the NBA, if you've taken the time to download the NBA App, we're going to make you feel like you're part of those moments. We're going to do everything we can to make you feel like the world's a little bit smaller and you're a little bit closer to other people who care about the same thing."

Kevin Scheitrum
Associate Vice President of Content Personalization and Optimization at the NBA

There’s always the question of “How much is too much?” when it comes to notifications. Kevin pointed to relevant data as a triangle offense: “We're trying to optimize toward opens, but the goal ultimately is to get people inside of the product. We want to balance that with minimizing unsubscribes, minimizing un-installs, and minimizing opt-outs while also keeping open rate kind of around the same level.” No one element can dominate, and it’s a delicate balance: “If one is out of whack, the whole strategy falls apart.”

Quick pivots are part of the game, too. “When you want to test out a strategy, you don't necessarily need a big plan—you can test small and swing big.”

Reflecting on learnings

Telling the story of this “transcendent athlete in our lifetime” was absolutely “humbling,” Kevin said. It sparked new ideas for his team about instantaneous reporting on games and athletic performance, which his tech-savvy fans are “demanding be at their fingertips.” Volume, scale, and quality are top-of-mind. It also made it clear that there was an appetite for this type of messaging among their audience.

The key, Scheitrum said, is to find a moment in time to test a strategy that feels natural to your brand.

“We saw that segment grow and grow,” Kevin explained. “Our takeaway there is that we have to create that staging. Create that time period where you want to do something different.” By taking that calculated risk, Kevin’s team was able to test, learn, and achieve success—and then use that success as a path forward for their messaging strategy.

Learn more

At the end of the day, it’s all about “delivering the best content” to the people who want it, when they want it. To learn more about how the NBA makes that happen, tune in to our coverage of Forge 2023, which is now streaming on demand.

Team Braze

Team Braze

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