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By Webb Wright, NY Reporter

April 16, 2024 | 3 min read

The NBA’s latest campaign celebrates the energy and charisma of the playoffs, the postseason elimination tournament that culminates in the seasonal championship.

Is there a distinct vibe shift among professional basketball players and fans during playoff season? According to a new series of NBA spots, the answer is an emphatic ‘Yes.’

Just days before the start of the 2024 NBA playoffs (this Saturday, April 20), the league has debuted a new ad campaign spotlighting ‘Playoff Mode’ – a supposed phenomenon that causes players to become especially energetic, fans to become particularly passionate and games to grow noticeably more heated as the league approaches the championship.

The campaign, dubbed ‘Playoff Mode. It’s a thing,’ debuts tonight on TNT during a play-in tournament game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the New Orleans Pelicans (the winner of which will proceed to the playoffs). It centers on three 30-second video spots new video spots featuring voiceovers from actor and comedic legend Chris Rock.

The spots star NBA heavyweights like the Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic and the Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum as they ardently deny, in press conferences, locker rooms and elsewhere, that “Playoff Mode” is “a thing.” Their denials aside, the voice of Rock maintains over a montage of playoff gameplay footage and celebrating fans that “it’s clearly a thing.”

Lil Wayne, Guy Fieri, Shaquille O’Neal, Puerto Rican rap artist Anuel AA and sports announcer Malika Andrews also have brief cameos in the campaign, which was developed in collaboration with ad agency Translation.

The new spots can now be seen on the NBA App and across the league’s social channels. Corresponding print, digital and audio campaigns will also run in strategic placements – including OOH in more than 10 major US cities – and at high-traffic events.

“Our strategy for this year’s NBA Playoffs campaign centers around an engaging video concept that not only captures the energy of fans and players as we enter the postseason but also brings them in with humor and personal feel,” NBA chief marketing officer Tammy Henault said today during a panel at Possible, a marketing conference held in Miami. “The video creative is extended beyond broadcast and digital platforms through high-impact, dynamic out-of-home advertisements. Between broadcast, digital, audio and out-of-home activations from city to city, we will truly meet our fans where they are.”

As part of the new campaign, the NBA is also debuting its first-ever sonic brand identity, which, according to a press release, “captures the authentic sounds of the game.” (Think sneakers squeaking on courts, balls being dribbled, nets being swished and so on.)

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