NBA superstar Kevin Durant came to the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou in July 2016 to launch his new shoes, the KD9’s. Rather than a small event attended by a few, the ambition was to create a revolutionary event format that maximised reach and genuine fan engagement with the superstar.
The entire activation was centered on two critical insights.
First, Kevin Durant (or KD as his fans call him) is crazy good at NBA2K Online. Like ridiculously good. He’s even gone on national television to boast about it. And it's not always inevitable for a great on-court player to be a great video game player of the same sport.
The NBA2K online game offered a brilliant platform to tap into every single basketball fan across the country. You really can’t overestimate NBA2K Online’s popularity in China – players are incredibly passionate, even recreating their in-game moves on the court.
So Mindshare decided to give NBA2K online fans an incredible opportunity. It invited NBA2K online players to compete for the honour of representing the best of the best in China against Kevin Durant.
This invitation to a genuine heads up battle with an NBA Superstar resonated absolutely with NBA2K1 players. And combining these passion points utterly reinvented athlete event model for Nike.
Thus was born the ‘Play KD Show” – a once in a lifetime chance for a fan to play KD one-on-one.
Virtually and in the real world.
By incorporating the virtual element the agency made sure that this was not just going to be about a handful of people hanging out with KD but a scale event. Millions of fans could watch the virtual battle anywhere as someone just like them took on a top NBA superstar.
Mindshare partnered with the biggest basketball video game in the world, NBA2K Online. And broadcasted live across China on the number one basketball broadcaster Tencent NBA and the largest social network WeChat boasting a subscriber base of over 800 million Chinese people.
KD issued his challenge: He would play China's top NBA2K Online player in the game and on the court, creating the world's largest basketball tournament.
463,000 players answered the challenge, all competing in the virtual tournament for a chance to play Kevin Durant head on.
Gao Yang, the final winner, represented China in a live broadcast match up against KD, where the two players squared off in a best of three formats.
• First, they went toe to toe in a one-on-one virtual street game – with KD narrowly beating Gao Yang 18 to 15.
• The second game took advantage of the standard five-on-five NBA regulation format – going to two full overtimes until KD was able to win with a buzzer-beating final slam dunk.
• Finally, KD took Gao Yang out of the studio and onto the courts of Guangzhou, where they played together as part of KD’s Rise Academy.
The entire event was live streamed on China’s largest online sports channel, Tencent NBA, as well as broadcast directly to pinnacle digital out-of-home locations across Guangzhou.
Throughout the broadcast, KD interacted with Nike Club members online, answering questions, sharing insights on his training methods, and even introduced a virtual pair of KD9’s, his brand new shoes, into the game.
The opportunity to directly engage with NBA superstar like Kevin Durant on their favourite platform drove unprecedented excitement among Chinese basketball fans and completely reinvented the athlete tour:
• 463,000 fans competed for a chance to play Kevin Durant head on
• 1.8 million fans tuned in live to watch the two-hour show via Tencent NBA and NBA2K Online, making it the #1 programme on Tencent NBA for TWO ENTIRE WEEKS, driving 33 million views in total
• 306,000 virtual KD9’s were downloaded and paid for in the game, converting an astonishing two-thirds of the tournament’s competitors
• Kevin Durant’s new shoe, the KD9, became his fastest selling shoe yet for NIKE.