Cleveland Cavaliers Executives Discuss NBA 2K League, Global Expansion, Content Strategy

NEW YORK — On Tuesday, the Cleveland Cavaliers were represented on-stage by Matt O’Brien and Jonathan Sumers at the inaugural Esports Activate event.

Both staffers have leaned into the esports movement taking hold of the NBA, which will kick off its 2K League later this Spring with 17 of the 30 organizations fielding a six-player roster.

During a brief presentation, O’Brien and Sumers discussed over-arching points about the organization’s entry into esports. This past November, team owner Dan Gilbert made a reported multi-million dollar investment into then-apparel line 100 Thieves. The company is currently still focused on apparel but has expanded into content creation and gaming. It now fields a team in the League of Legends LCS season.

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The two Cavaliers’ employees also addressed how the organization views content creation for Cavs Legion GC, the possibility of international expansion and where the 2K League currently sits from a media distribution standpoint.

Below are some key takeaways from the presentation. 

O’Brien, Cavaliers’ VP of Global Corporate Partnership Development, on the potential for future global expansion…

Interestingly enough, if you look at some of the quotes that (Managing Director Brendan Donohue) talks about is about rounding out the league. I don’t think it’s necessarily all about rounding out the league just with the remainder of the 30 teams. There are NBA offices in Shanghai and in Shenzhen and in places in Europe and London that potentially down the road could also be members of this league, a chance to globalize this league. I think the idea is these 17 teams would come back to their home markets and play “home games” in venues. If I had to guess, and I don’t know anything specifically, I think we’d probably want to wait and watch the Overwatch teams go first and then be fast followers in that space as everybody’s got facilities to be built.

This isn’t the first time a league staffer or team executive has discussed the possibility of global expansion for the NBA 2K League. Last April, NBA Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum spoke on two separate occasions about possible plans for the league’s globalization, saying “Long term, we can see a situation where a Team Shanghai is playing the esports Celtics, or the eSixers are playing a team in Paris, and this becomes a truly global esports league.”

O’Brien on media partner(s) for the NBA 2K League…

While the NBA has not named the media distribution partners, we’re confident in saying we’re going to be in a good spot in this particular place. … And then in local markets eventually, we can see using our regular local RSNs to help us also on a regular basis maybe do some magazine shows about the teams and the community gaming organization.

Sumers, the Cavaliers’ Senior Director of Digital Partnerships, on the possible studio location(s) for the league…

The studio location is most likely going to be here in New York. So, we will be flying out our team once a week, and they will partake in most likely two matches every week against some of the other 16 teams at a studio here in the city. 

It should be noted that Sumers didn’t specify if there’d be one or multiple studio locations for the league. Location(s) haven’t been confirmed nor announced yet.

Sumers on the Cavaliers’ content strategy for Cavs Legion GC…

Everybody’s heard the phrase ‘content is king’ a million times over, and it’s never been more applicable than to this. You talk about basketball, you talk about bringing to life the personalities of the players, and you talk about digital and social. Everything that the 2K League represents really is at that perfect intersection of content. … In addition to hiring our team manager, we also hired someone specifically for content and marketing purposes. As of now, I think we’re the only team that put someone specifically in that role. Everything we do for the rest of this inaugural season will be done with the thought of, ‘How is this going to play on mobile and social from a content perspective?’ That’s our first thought with everything that we put out.

Sumers on storytelling with the 2K League’s future players…

There are many players within the 250 right now that have amazing personalities. They have amazing back stories. Where these kids have come from and what they’ve overcome to be part of this league is going to blow away the general public. The access we’re going to have to these players is unlike anything that you have in the NBA. We all know for the most part the back stories around NBA players, but we’re going to go even deeper with our 2K players and really delve into where they grew up, talking to their family, their friends, their high school classmates, etcetera. You’re going to get to know these five players on a personal level.

About Mark J. Burns

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