NBA 2K Players Tournament Creates Social Engagement During COVID-19 Stoppage

With the current landscape of sports, leagues and teams are exploring anyway to continue engagement with fans and provide positivity, light, and escape in the lives of sports fans. The first team to spark the idea was the Phoenix Suns, who had two gamers square off and stream the game on Twitch. This was followed by NASCAR launching a weekly iRacing league, brands like Bleacher Report holding 32-team NFL simulation brackets, and more.
The latest version of player competition was the NBA 2K Players Tournament. The tournament, held over the span of April 3-April 12, consisted of 16 NBA stars including Trae Young, Kevin Durant, and tournament champion Devin Booker. We used the Zoomph platform to track the tournament on social from start to finish to understand the players’ impact on social and understand the newly created audiences for player gaming competition.

Player Engagement

During the tournament, we tracked owned and earned content from all competing players and sorted the players round by round. Measuring engagement of athletes off the court can be a major insight for agencies and brands on how marketable athletes are. 
During the tournament, tournament champion Devin Booker led in all engagements, with 80,820 engagements over the three rounds and nearly 56K in the finals round. Other players among the top with Trae Young who had just under 79K engagements and led all players in rounds one and two, and Patrick Beverley who had over 45K engagements.

Audience Insights

While esports have been evolving for years, player competitions among athletes is not a common competition we have seen before on a regular basis like we are right now. We benchmarked the audience engaging on social with the tournament against social engagers from this NBA season, before the season was paused. (All insights are 2K percentage first, followed by NBA season).

  • 89.2% vs 77.2% Male 
  • 82.7% vs. 70.1% United States audience
  • 47.1% vs. 33.7% Interest for gaming
  • 30.1% vs. 25.2% Interest in QSR
  • 21.3% vs. 15.2% Interest in soft drinks

Key Takeaways

  • There is a market for this type of content. Is it being boosted by the fact there are no live sports currently? More than likely, but it also shows that fans are hungry for content, so maybe we could see tournaments like this during offseasons.
  • There is a difference in live sport audiences and esport audiences, even with the same sport and athletes. Each understanding their audience and the difference is vital for leagues, brands, and agencies.
  • Players are a big marketing tool. Could this tournament have been played with top esport players? 100%, in fact is essentially already is with the NBA 2K League. But the engagement created shows no matter the platform, athletes are always marketable.