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How Google Pixel, American Express Use NBA-All Star Weekend to Drive New Brand Strategies

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Putting Ice Spice in a Starry Super Bowl ad wasn’t PepsiCo’s way of kicking off the brand’s 2024, but culminating a 2023 launch that started at the National Basketball Association’s NBA All-Star Weekend.

Starry began its life as Sierra Mist’s replacement by hosting the event’s 3-Point Contest in Salt Lake City last year. Ice Spice wasn’t even mascot duo Lem and Lime’s first choice: One year ago, Starry’s NBA All-Star ads had them courtside with Keke Palmer

Tara Mulcahy, NBA senior vice president and head of global marketing partnerships, noted that campaigns for the Meta Quest 3 gaming headset and Gatorade Water both launched at NBA All-Star Weekend this year. SoFi used All-Star Weekend in Indianapolis to launch its multiyear partnership as the official banking partner of the NBA, NBA G League, NBA 2K League and USA Basketball. 

Even NBA commissioner Adam Silver and San Antonio Spurs No. 1 draft pick Victor Wembanyama used the event to debut NB-AI, a voice assistant that uses NBA data to let fans personalize the way they watch a game.

That positioning gave companies access to the roughly 125,000 fans who descended upon Indianapolis for the festivities. 

“We really have no offseason here at the league,” Mulcahy said, “as it relates to examples of partners working with our affiliate leagues and the Women’s National Basketball Association. In particular, they really do extend their marketing efforts across all of our business throughout the year to have that consistent drumbeat to their consumers and fans.”

This year’s Super Bowl ad for Google Pixel showcased its artificial-intelligence-guided voice feature for vision-impaired users. But it’s difficult to demonstrate that technology without placing a device in a user’s hand, and Google Pixel has a bunch of other features that test better in person.

For Google and several other brands, All-Star Weekend is just the tipoff of an unending basketball calendar. Brands that sign on as sponsors of the NBA and WNBA not only get a full year to tinker with activations, but a strong and growing women’s sports audience that encouraged Google Pixel to launch a partnership with the National Women’s Soccer League this week, as well.

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