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8/6: Fan Engagement and the Future of Entertainment

August 6 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Learn from the champs: The NBA’s world-beating approach to Digital (Fan) Engagement

Last year Fast Company named the National Basketball Association (NBA) the 3rd most innovative company in the world. While other sports leagues decline and struggle to survive in the era of COVID-19, the NBA continues to grow and has built a truly global professional sports league, engaging traditional demographics and sports markets, as well as the young, rapidly growing, and worldwide esports industry. This quick ability to innovate has most recently been demonstrated with the NBA’s ability to reimagine the fan experience for its shortened 2019-2020 season in Orlando.

How does the NBA engage younger audiences who are less likely to engage with sports in-person or on traditional channels such as cable or network television? How is the NBA approaching digital engagement during the COVID-19 era when many teams can expect few or no fans in arenas  and stadiums? What can professional and major college sports and the entertainment industry as a whole learn from the NBA’s success in digital fan engagement?

In a conversation moderated by seasoned innovator, entrepreneur, and educator Mike Grandinetti, NBA 2K League Commissioner, Brendan Donahue, NBA Global Partnerships Manager, Jacob Fein, and sports tech investor and Scrum Ventures Managing Director Michael Proman, will discuss how the NBA was visionary in creating deep fan engagement across a diverse range of communities, even where they had no physical presence. The panelists will also discuss the implications for the future of entertainment, and how these lessons will guide success in other industries such as music, ticketing, sports technology startups, and theater.

Brendan Donahue is the managing director of the NBA 2K League, where he is responsible for overseeing the first official esports league operated by a U.S. professional sports league. Donohue, a sports industry veteran with more than two decades of experience in team and league operations, manages a league that features 23 teams that completed its second season in August 2019, and is currently in the midst of its third season. Prior to assuming his current role in April 2017, Donohue served as Senior Vice President of the NBA’s industry-renowned Team Marketing & Business Operations (TMBO) department, where he led the strategic planning and management for all teams across the NBA, WNBA and NBA G League, helping them innovate in sales, marking, digital and analytical areas of their business. He was instrumental in several of TMBO’s accomplishments, including assisting with ownership transitions in Sacramento, Philadelphia, Detroit and Memphis. His responsibilities also included leading team business discussions at WNBA and NBA G League Board of Governors meetings and presenting at frequent workshops, including assisting NBA team presidents on best practices in marketing, ticket sales and sponsorship sales.

Michael Proman is the Managing Director of Scrum Ventures,  an early-stage venture capital firm that invests in a range of industries; Scrum Studios enables startups and corporations to co-create and innovate together. Michael also is Managing Director of SPORTS TECH TOKYO . In this role, he oversees the development and execution of the world’s largest sports tech community, aimed at connecting cutting-edge startups of all stages to revenue-generating opportunities. As a SportsTech entrepreneur, he was Managing Director of Fancam. As the global leader in gigapixel automation, Fancam provides sports teams, venue operators and event sponsors unprecedented data extraction opportunities via facial analysis, behavioral insights and social signals. Previously, Michael spent 4 years working for the NBA as Manager of Global Business Development. He held multiple roles across the League’s global business development group with a particular emphasis on driving international revenue and growing the NBA’s brand and business in China.

Jacob Fein works at the NBA’s League HQ in NYC. He has 6+ years of retail partnership development, marketing, and sponsorship experience with an emphasis on e-commerce, stadium, and event merchandising strategy. He has deep expertise in marketing and digital technology, specializing in social media platform development and management. Previously, he worked for the National Football League and at ESPN.

Mike Grandinetti has spent his entire career immersed in the fields of innovation, entrepreneurship, digital marketing and design thinking. A former Silicon Valley engineer & McKinsey strategy consultant, he served as a C level executive across 8 successful VC backed tech startups. 2 went public on the NASDAQ – 7 were acquired by icons including IBM, Oracle and Symantec.  He’s simultaneously taught Masters, Executive MBA & Corporate Education courses for the past two decades at MIT, Harvard, Brown and Rutgers. He’s recently joined the faculty for the Berkeley Sutardja Center ‘s Engineering Leadership Professional Program & is also an instructor & mentor in the Berkeley Blockchain Xcelerator. He’s led over 150 hackathons & design sprints and is the host of the Disruptive Innovation podcast series. He’s a frequent keynote speaker, and serves on the MIT Sloan Digital Learning Series executive team. His bylines have appeared in Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Inc, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, etc.