BASKETBALL FOREVER

As a Co-Founder and the Creative Director for Forever Network, I was given the opportunity to build a small social media experiment into a fledgling sports media brand with a distinct voice and aesthetic geared towards young basketball fans. The brand has a reach of over 60 Million per month and pulls in nearly 500 Million video views across social every year. I was responsible for the look and feel of the brand as well as establishing the editorial voice and launching it's video presence. Before taking an advisory role, I was able to shape the north star for the company in its early stages through various content experiments and branding initiatives.

NUMBERS
3 Million+ Facebook Fans
DATE
5.8.17
COMPANY
Basketball Forever
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500 Million Video Views Per Year

CHALLENGE

Basketball Forever has built a highly engaged global audience through fan focused content. The ethos of the company is built around the assertion that we are fans generating content for other fans. This model is loaded with authenticity. We know what our audience wants and are servicing them efficiently and effectively through social. In building a constant stream of curated content, establishing the true voice that would resonate across a broad spectrum of fans, as well as building a visual language that spoke to one of the fastest growing sports in the world became to two major challenges facing me as the creative director of the brand.

Basketball Never Stops.

As a co-founder and creative director of Basketball Forever, a division of the Forever Network, I shaped the look and feel of the entire brand voice while defining the social strategy and bringing legitimacy to the brand within the social space. My contributions would lead to various levels of venture capital funding and brand deals that stood on the shoulders of the visual language and design systems aimed at resonating with a young sports fan audience that were developed under my watch.

Growing the brand from a few hundred followers to millions across various platforms while building a design language that worked and a brand voice that would evolve over time was a difficult but fun challenge. I was a large part of the initial building stages of the brand and developing it into what it is today, one of the foremost and prolific basketball news providers on social media boasting a global audience of 60 million across multiple platforms.

Basketball Forever was launched with the intent of becoming a community with a distinctly younger voice and a brand ethos that was targeted at speaking a common language with its audience. We wanted to be a basketball news platform that was built by fans for the fans. My role was to make sure that this voice was authentic and to cultivate a look and feel for all the assets we shared, from video to static to typography. As the brand grew to more platforms and I refined the aesthetic, we saw great success in developing multiple touch points for consumers to interact with us. Making sure that the messaging across all of these different verticals was consistent was no small task.

Basketball Forever initially began its existence as a social media page and then grew into the sports media publishing brand it is today. In a journey that is actually the reverse of how most companies traditionally do it (Establishing their website and app and merchandise first and then developing a social following around that) we were able to flip the script and build a genuine social following before that.

Our two unique points of differentiation in speed to market and authentic voice allowed us to develop a massive audience across different social channels. This included an extremely active facebook page with over 3 million followers, and a quickly growing instagram presence with nearly 800K followers. With such a large audience, the consumption rate of content would be extremely high, so we knew our design language had to be nimble and flexible enough to work across different pieces of content without feeling stale.

This evolution allowed new avenues of coverage and the development of distinct voices on different platforms. Twitter was a much more real time conversation, while platforms such a youtube provided a backdrop for a more dramatic and cinematic type of storytelling. For instance, the "Dear Basketball" Kobe Bryant tribute I directed and edited garnered over 3 million views and some media coverage. From more cinematic video content like that to far more news centric social news content like the Isiah Thomas piece above were all different storytelling vehicles I helped develop for the brand.

It remains on of our most engaged with pieces of content ever (It was actually preceded by a similarly popular mix a little while prior to his final season called Rare Air) and is one of the most meaningful projects that I have had a chance to work on. Not only did I work on mastering the soundtrack and working with a voice actor to produce the poem in spoken word, I also edited all the video and did the titles and visual effects and titles and marketing. I treated this release like it's own movie and our audience loved it. It was truly a cinematic Kobe experience and an amazing story for our audience. You can simply go through the comments on youtube to see what people are saying.

Similarly, my End of an Era series garnered heavy coverage across Reddit and other platforms as an appetite for the full series continued to grow. End of an Era was an instant sensation garnering over 6.9 Million cross platform views in just under 48 hours and rising up to number 3 on the youtube world trending page. These type of videos really built a following for Basketball Forever and showed a willingness to tell meaningful stories that our audience resonated with on a high level.

This meant setting a high bar for visual content across the board, and our video strategy was at the center of this entire initiative. Some of our most successful projects featured a heavily curated storyline driven feature on a specific player. Below you will find a few examples of the type of videos that we built our audience on: 

Initial video experiments were more so intended to be around specific moments like an MVP or Championship as our video strategy was to amplify the biggest moments in sport using social. However another big focus for these videos was to capture the hectic yet euphoric moments and chaos of an NBA season and distilling it down to a bite size highlight package set to some amazing music that could easily be consumed on mobile phones in a short form setting. The recurring theme was high quality phantom cam level highlights mixed to bright and energetic music that built up to an epic conclusion featuring the biggest names in the game paired with the hottest sounds.

These types of videos really helped define the brand for consumers and made us look like we knew what we were doing, not just in terms of sourcing such high quality clips and editing them so professionally but even from a curation and tastemaking standpoint I felt that my ability to pick music that genuinely fit the vibe of the moment the fans felt in the season totally elevated it even more. Even minor adjustments like pitch shifting a song could have a huge impact in giving consumers a totally new experience. All these things were learned in the process of producing these kinds of hype tapes for Basketball Forever while also still maintaining the social presence and consistently posting on twitter and facebook and other platforms.

The idea with each video was to find unique ways to elevate highlights in an effort to seamlessly blend them with the music to tell a very compelling and comprehensive story. For example the "They Want to See Me Fall" mix I created featuring Steph Curry and Kevin Durant that featured a number of non traditional camera angles and user generated content incorporated in throughout the whole mix along with elevated transitions and typography and visual flourishes unique to my style.

The principle I really honed in on for these videos that I created and directed for Basketball Forever was a high level of attention to detail and an uncompromising level of effort in enhancing the matching of the music to the highlights. The videos were all started by me first listening to a track and visualising what a mixtape could look like, and this is why I always felt that the music was perhaps the most important part of any hype tape as it has to have the right flow and pacing, it has to have the right build up and slow moments to build up suspense. I would always strive to pick music that was unique and felt like it belonged in these mixes but brought a high energy. Often times I would look for something completely original or a twist on a popular hip hop or rap track.

As a brand targeted at a younger demographic, our main goal in rebranding Basketball Forever was building a bold and eye catching visual language that spoke to the nature of the sport and the infinite concept of the word “forever.” Working to develop the creative direction with a team of designers we focused on graphic elements we could relate to the game: the dots of the ball, the lines, lights and colors in the court. Then to capture the concept of “forever” as a visual metaphor we came up with the idea of continuing, never-stopping, repeating elements that played with gradients and clean sans serif typography composed to make a statement. We wanted our consumers to feel the love of the game at every touchpoint with the brand. People are always searching for their tribe, and we wanted to provide a space where they could consume engaging content with like minded fans through content that spoke directly to them.

The gradient functioned as a visual motif that ties together the minimal yet bold Universe typeface with the repeating lines and dot patterns we built into the system. The result was a flexible and strong design language that took risks and drew in users as they were going through their social feeds. Knowing how crowded the marketplace was, we wanted to develop something that would look good next to other pieces of content on an infinite scroll timeline. Standing out amongst the noise while still retaining that original attitude and voice that I had helped develop over the early years of Basketball Forever was of utmost importance.

Organizational decay often occurs as a brand grows and the voice becomes diluted as the original founder's vision is handed off to other people. From a design perspective, I wanted to give the brand an ethos that would help diminish any of these effects by being brash and staying true to that original vision. The social media identity and the colors screamed bold and loud, and hopefully this would counteract any deleterious effects time might have on watering down the initial concepts.

This visual exploration went hand in hand with the editorial voice, which espoused an authentic connection with the average basketball fan. We aimed to connect with them at their level by capturing the sentiment that being a fan of a player or a team gave them every day of the year. Unlike other players in the market, we focused on quick turn brash social strategies that targeted consumers at the edge of their second screen experience. We spoke to them in the moment and provided a content menu that allowed us to capitalize on the moments they weren’t actively watching games as well as during them. 

This strategy of bringing the content to the consumer and removing as many barriers as possible between the creative and the customer was a key to brand growth. Convenience and relatability are what made the Basketball Forever brand flourish as it had an inherently authentic social voice that was the same as the audience consuming it.

Basketball Forever was built as a social-focused publisher that covers the intersection of sports and culture. The content strategy evolved to feature more and more rich content experiences. What began as a text and image focused social feed of quick to market content, evolved into a heavily focused video publisher and then made a transition to online and written editorialized content. I helped develop the overall voice of the brand through multiple iterative content experiments whether that was on platforms such as the original facebook page, or more real time coverage through our twitter account. This personalized and intimate voice resonated with our core demographic as Basketball Forever evolved to produce richer and more interactive content.

Overtime, through the expansion of our social channels and reach we made the decision to launch a web presence as well to capitalize on these ongoing conversations that we had spurred. By creating a website we were able to funnel our social audience into a walled garden allowing for a more curated experience for users. We were also able to offer them more robust shopping and ecommerce options as well which was a key aspect of our monetization strategy.

Traditionally most media companies would do the inverse approach where their editorial strategy would inform their social strategy like I had said earlier, but by focusing on the wants and needs of our audience from a social standpoint, our editorial strategy was able to amplify existing voices and add fuel to the fire of the conversations going on at the moment. This allowed us to transfer the momentum we had on social to our owned and operated channels.