The NBA All-Star Game: 10 Examples Of Marketing Creativity To Inspire Your Brand

Did you catch the NBA All-Star Weekend this year? Definitely one of the most exciting weekends for basketball fans, isn’t it? What started out as a simple idea for an exhibition game has now grown into a celebration of epic dunks and buzzer beaters and everything else that the basketball community loves.

But there’s more to the NBA All-Star weekend than basketball nuances. It’s a branding playground where big names go big with their creative ideas to celebrate the game, create immersive experiences, and also compete for the audience’s attention. 

Take it from brands that go big with events, limited-edition drops and so much more. So how did these brands tap into the excitement and energy of the event? The answer to this question brings with it valuable marketing and branding lessons. 

But before that, let’s address the big question. How did the NBA All-Star brand itself take shape? And how did it become such a massive event that attracts huge brand partnerships and celebrity endorsements? Let’s find out. 

An Exhibition Game to Global Spectacle: Tracing the All-Star’s Branding Evolution

Several brands host events but not all of them manage to create a distinct brand out of that event and scale it up as much as NBA did with their All-Star weekend. Back in 1951, it was a simple idea that was incepted as a way to shift perceptions and regain public attention after the CCNY point-shaving scandal. The idea was inspired by the Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game. 

While a few were skeptical, the NBA All-Stars idea worked. People liked it! The energy, the skills – it all resonated with fans. And slowly, the NBA understood that there was more to the All-Star weekend than just the game. They started paying more attention to the entertainment quotient in it. Slowly, the All-Star brand emerged, distinct from the regular season with its own identity – vibrant, exciting, and a celebration of basketball’s global appeal.

The NBA All-Star brand identity 

Establishing the NBA as a global authority in the world of basketball was no easy feat. It progressed slowly but steadily with decades of dedicated and consistent branding. And of course, a strong core brand identity at the crux of it all. 

So, the question is how did they manage to create a unique identity for the event itself while also preserving its ties to the core brand. For starters, the Jerry West silhouette version of the NBA logo has been part of almost all the recent NBA All-Star logo iterations. 

The below snapshot shows the NBA All-Star logos from the past decade. Notice how the brand identity has been evolving based on the hosting location and the year. Recently, the brand also switched to a more cohesive identity which has been in use since the 2018 All-Star weekend. 

Branding is a big deal for large-scale events like this one because there is a lot at stake. There are big brand partnerships and big events to promote. The identity created puts a face to the event and helps achieve consistency across various marketing channels. 

While that’s just the beginning, the NBA also adopts other shrewd marketing strategies to steadily build the NBA All-Star brand and the excitement it represents. Let’s talk about a few such strategies now for brands looking for inspiration to brand their upcoming events. 

Celebrity endorsements and halftime shows 

A stunning blend of celebrity endorsements and the allure of the halftime show are the other things that have fans hooked over the NBA All-Star weekend. Take 2024 for example. Celebrities like Lil Wayne, Keith Urban, T-Pain, and Jennifer Hudson dazzled the audience this time. 

Well, the online debate over choosing Jennifer Hudson for the halftime show is a whole different thing though! Fans who witnessed the event enjoyed her performance and cheered her, no doubt! 

Celebrity endorsements like this one go beyond entertainment. They are also about preserving cultural relevance and appealing to a wider audience segment. This has definitely paid off in strengthening the NBA All-Star brand over the years. 

Leveraging social media for engagement 

NBA goes big with respect to sharing updates and keeping the social media folks updated and entertained throughout the All-Star weekend. This way, even fans from other locations get to be part of the big event. 

For example, this year, X Spaces has been a hot topic in the social media realm with a lot of brands and creators leveraging the feature to boost engagement. NBA went live on Spaces during the All-Star weekends to let fans join the discussion and to catch up on all that they missed. 

Contests and giveaways to boost participation 

Social media contests are foolproof ways to create a buzz which is very much essential for events like the All-Star weekend. NBA is known to host social media contests to incentivize fan participation and to increase mentions and discussions on social media. 

The NBA Golden Ticket contest of 2024 is a good example! 

Mobile app marketing: A slice of the experience on the go 

Engaging fans on their digital turf is another crucial strategy, and the official NBA App plays a key role in achieving this. The app keeps fans connected to the action in real time. It gives them the freedom to access live scores, stats, highlights, and even exclusive behind-the-scenes content.

NBA creates teasers to build anticipation around All-Star player-focused content through their social media to drive more traffic to their mobile app. 

KIMP Tip: The above post shows how the NBA makes the most of content marketing to create excitement. To achieve this, and to make content distribution more user-friendly, a mobile app can be of great help. 

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Preserving the human side of things 

While the NBA All-Star weekend is all about professional basketball it is also about the lives and stories of the players featured. So, the NBA shares not only thrilling game moments on social media but also other exclusive content like pre-game rituals, heartwarming on-court moments, and more. 

The below Instagram post, for example, showcased a beautiful moment featuring Giannis Ugo Antetokounmpo.

Creating immersive experiences 

NBA conducted a drone show following the games for the 2024 All-Star weekend. It was a narrative journey featuring legendary and current NBA All-Stars. The Drone Show did not just dazzle the audience at the venue but also became a social media sensation. 

The NBA plans such showstoppers every year to add a wow factor to impress their audience. So, the audience knows that every year, there’s something new to look out for. 

Such immersive experiences created by the NBA help add to the memorability of the NBA brand and the NBA All-Star brand in particular. 

While the NBA All-Star brand has mastered the art of crafting its narrative and engaging fans through innovative tactics like the ones we discussed so far, there’s another key ingredient that fuels the event’s immense popularity: strategic brand partnerships. 

In fact, these partnering brands become active players in creating unforgettable experiences and driving fan excitement. 

But what drives these brands to invest in All-Star partnerships? Let’s explore this question from the brands’ perspectives, uncovering marketing lessons from a few examples. 

Lessons From Brands That Leverage the Excitement of NBA All-Star Weekend 

1. The Meta Quest booth 

Events like the NBA All-Star weekend that draw a lot of foot traffic can be a great place to introduce a new product. And Meta’s booth for Meta Quest during the All-Star weekend 2024 proves this point. 

The booth was set up to allow attendees to get a taste of the Meta Quest headset and play a few VR games as well. Of course, the experience also came along with some exclusive Meta Quest and NBA branded merch. 

This activation was a great idea to build awareness about the new product and drive conversions. 

2. St. Elmo x Lids merch drop 

Over the years, it has become customary for brands to come up with limited-edition merch drops during the All-Star weekend. One such this time was the merch drop that occurred as a collaboration between St. Elmo Steak House and Lids. The brands made the exclusive merchandise available for fans at their pop-up shop. 

This campaign is a lesson in the effectiveness of pop-up shops in marketing as well as the benefits of limited-edition merchandise celebrating big events like NBA All-Star. 

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3. Nap Or Nothing x  Ruffles partnership

Similar to the St. Elmo x Lids merch drop, the Nap or Nothing x Ruffles collab also came with exclusive merchandise drops. But to elevate the game, they also gave fans a chance to meet Jayson Tatum & A’ja Wilson at the store. Additionally, they hosted a social media contest for lucky winners to take away one of the drops. 

Social media posts like this one are a great way to boost social media engagement which eventually converts to website traffic or product purchases. The volume of comments on the post speaks for itself. 

4. Starry 3-Point Contest

Brands that partnered to host the main contests and events that make up the All-Star event are the real deal. And the popular soft drink brand Starry is one of the regulars in this arena. The Starry 3-Point Contest is something fans look forward to every year. 

This partnership provides Starry with significant exposure. Besides, through this, they target a niche audience segment. This makes it easier for them to understand what their audience is looking for and come up with the most engaging ideas to boost customer participation and brand affinity in the long run. 

The brand throws the spotlight on this partnership during the big weekend through interactive posts, GIFs, and other content that attracts attention – like the below post. 

5. Kia Skills Challenge

The Kia Skills Challenge is another regular when it comes to brand partnerships for NBA All-Star. This challenge focuses on highlighting players’ skills in ball-handling, shooting, etc. Through this long-term partnership, Kia manages to create a positive brand association among fans. 

This year, they also utilized the opportunity to promote their upcoming model Kia EV9. 

This combines the benefits of brand exposure and building anticipation before the launch date. 

6. AT&T Slam Dunk

Similar to the Kia Skills Challenge, AT&T’s Slam Dunk is yet another basketball-focused event. The event throws the spotlight on the game and steers clear of the promotional aspect. Therefore it helps build authentic connections with the audience, avid fans in particular. 

From discussions on the event polls that initiate conversations, AT&T leverages social media in many ways to build an omnichannel experience around the Slam Dunk contest.

7. Panini Rising Star 

Trading card giant Panini is the title sponsor of the Rising Stars tournament, another anticipated highlight of the NBA All-Star event. By focusing on new talent, the brand taps into fans’ aspirations and excitement for the future of the league. In 2024, they also included special discounts on Panini Instant NBA purchases in order to drive more sales during the event. 

Limited-time sales like this one are more likely to attract relevant audience and boost sales. 

8. Google Pixel 

Google has cleverly established the Google Pixel brand as a connected but distinguishable entity. Their brand collaborations like the NBA partnership for the NBA All-Star game are one of the many strategies they use to establish the Google Pixel brand and preserve their position as a niche player in the smartphone segment

This year, Google Pixel also hosted a Pep Rally to get into the spirit of the game along with the Pixel Combine activation at the venue where attendees could experience Google Pixel phones

9. DoorDash’s Corner 3

Renowned food ordering and delivery platform DoorDash is yet another partner at NBA All-Star. For the 2024 All-Star game, they set up a bodega called Corner 3 featuring a variety of NBA-themed memorabilia. There were also exclusive player appearances and prizes and some exclusives for DashPass members. 

This brand activation is a great example to show how to leverage experiential marketing to create tangibility for virtual brands. Additionally, it also shows how to creatively increase the value of loyalty programs or subscription services like DashPass in this case. 

10. State Farm All-Star Saturday Night 

Big events and big exposure like that brought by NBA All-Star are not easy to come by. So when you do get a chance to be part of the big event, going big is a great idea and the popular insurance company State Farm knows this well. 

They were not only the title sponsor of the lauded All-Star Saturday Night event but also leveraged the occasion to stand for a good cause. In collaboration with NBA Cares, they accumulated funds to contribute to the Special Olympics Indiana and Boys & Girls Club of Indianapolis. 

Events like the NBA All-Star game are valuable opportunities to connect with a broad audience and showcase the “human side” of your brand. State Farm was able to achieve this effectively through their campaign for the 2024 All-Star game. 

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The creative strategies that helped build the NBA All-Star brand and the strategies of the partners at the event must have sparked ideas for your next campaign. As evident from all these examples we discussed, remember: compelling design is crucial across all channels, especially in brand partnerships. For seamless execution of these visuals, consider an unlimited design subscription, like KIMP

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