The Branding Behind The NBA 2K League Team Logos


NBA 2K League and Team Logos (Photo: NBA)

NBA 2K League and Team Logos (Photo: NBA)

TNL Take: This week saw the release of the NBA 2K League logo as well as the reveal of the individual team names and branding.  

The NBA 2K League Logo was revealed first:

  • The NBA 2K League logo uses the colors and shape of the NBA logo and incorporates the font of the NBA 2K logo
  • Unlike traditional sports leagues, there is no human silhouette, a nod to the inclusive nature of the league 
  • Centerpiece of the design is a basketball

The Next Level also spoke with individuals at Wizards District Gaming, Pacers Gaming and Jazz Gaming for their take on the team branding.




You can clearly see the color connection with parent company Monumental Sports and Entertainment and the Washington Wizards with the familiar red and blue. The 3 stars in the logo represent not only the 3 stars in the DC flag, but also the communities of DC, Maryland and Virginia.

“We couldn’t be more excited to unveil the branding for Wizards District Gaming. Our logo is the perfect extension of the values that are reflective of the MSE family of teams: inclusivity, diversity, and a desire to be the best. We are confident that fans our franchises, as well as the DMV area as a whole, will be able to appreciate our approach to representing our home in an authenticate and meaningful way.”- Grant Paranjape, Director of Esports Business & Team Operations




Who doesn't love Boomer, the Indiana Pacers mascot? The Pacers Gaming logo is a new interpretation of the familiar feline.

“Boomer, the Pacers Panther mascot, is part of our heritage and symbolizes confidence, courage, and power. This new modernized version of the Pacers Panther is also sleek, confident, sly, and ready to pounce. We're proud, we're confident, and we know the game of basketball better than anyone else. This is Indiana. This is Pacers Gaming.” - Cody Parrent, Director of eSports Operations




The Jazz Gaming logo keeps the traditional Utah Jazz colors in place while also cleverly combing the J and G together. The alternate logo even mashes up the music background of the organization.

“We wanted our logo to showcase the state of Utah and show its part in video game history as well. It also gives you the look & feel that it belongs together with the other franchises at LHM Sports & Entertainment. We are very proud of the logo and look forward to what we build behind it.” - Josh Barney, Director of Esports and Tech


While the NBA 2K League will not showcase current players or teams, every logo and brand asset pays homage to their traditional sports counterpart. Will be interesting to see the crossover appeal between a basketball fan and a NBA 2K fan once the league launches next year.

NBA 2K League Looks To Hit The Right Notes With eSports Venture


NBA 2K League (Photo: 2K Sports)

NBA 2K League (Photo: 2K Sports)

Reprinted from by John Reynolds

  • League borrows heavily from traditional NBA format
  • Seventeen NBA teams have signed up, but three are missing
  • Commercial opportunities include in-game branding, e-commerce and sponsorship of teams and individual players

The technology wunderkinds at the NBA likely subscribed to one mantra when dreaming up the new esports NBA 2K League: if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

The NBA 2K League, which begins next year, borrows so heavily from the traditional NBA League that it’s an almost replica video game version, yet this has not stopped it being hyped as a game changer for the esports industry, particularly as it marks the first time that esports teams have been owned by professional teams.

“We believe we have a unique opportunity to develop something truly special for our fans and the young and growing esports community,” said NBA commissioner Adam Silver, at the announcement of the launch of the league.

For the sponsorship industry, the new league, which has been created with Take-Two Interactive, the developer of the popular NBA 2K video game, presents a raft of opportunities, from in-game branding, e-commerce opportunities to sponsorship of teams and individual players alike. More crucially, the league will target the sought-after millennial audience.

It is inarguable that esports is hot right now, particularly in the US, with a slew of investment from sports luminaries into the sector.

At the same time, fans have been packing out some of the world’s most iconic sporting arenas, to watch high-profile video gamers, who are stars in their own right, battle it out for success. 

The NBA is leading the esports charge, spearheaded by Silver, who believes it to be a magnet to capture younger fans, particularly in China.

Not only that, he also argues that Amazon-owned Twitch, the platform used to watch NBA 2K, which features a flurry of stats and chatter, represents the future of how the traditional NBA game should be aired.

Silver says: “If you go on Twitch, for example, and see what it’s like to follow those competitions, it’s sort of constant chatter of fans. There’s all kinds of other information appearing on the screen. 

“I think to older consumers used to looking at sports it might look incredibly cluttered, but as Facebook and other services experiment with live sports rights, and I’m sure Amazon’s going to be doing the same thing, I think they don’t have the same limitations cable and satellite historically have had.”

Amid the fanfare heralding the arrival of the league, however, questions remain about whether it will be an out-and-out success: sceptics point out that less than 1% of gaming is in professional esports and fans could be turned off by one or two differences to the traditional NBA game.

17 teams sign up

Seventeen teams – including stellar names like the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics – have signed up to the inaugural season, each reportedly paying around $750,000 (€640,000) for a three-year deal to participate in the league.

Missing from the list, though, are the Chicago Bulls, LA Lakers and San Antonio Spurs, three of the most celebrated teams in the league, though it is unclear why they are not participating.

“I think anything where you have brands that big who aren’t partaking, that is going to have an impact on the league to an extent, says Malph Minns, managing director at Strive Sponsorship.

Not so, says Chad Biggs, senior vice president of marketing partnerships at Philadelphia 76ers – one of the teams that is participating – who remarks: “I don’t believe it undermines the league. We have some very strong teams. It will make a very competitive league and more teams will follow.”

Celtics vs. Cavaliers (Photo: Getty Images)

Celtics vs. Cavaliers (Photo: Getty Images)

The players, who can be male or female but must be over 18, will likely be existing NBA 2K gamers or top players of other esports. They will be scouted by teams and, if successful, like LeBron James and Kevin Durant, will be signed by teams and have the opportunity to ink in individual sponsorship deals.

In a presentation about the league, NBA 2K League managing director Brendan Donohue says: “We are going to find the best 85 on the planet and bring them together and get them to compete at the highest level.”

But unlike the existing NBA 2K game, players will not replicate NBA superstars but rather each create a newly developed avatar.

Manny Anekal, who runs several esports companies, says: ““This is by far the biggest question for me and I’m sure many others. With sports titles and esports, there is the inherent question of whether there is an audience that wants to watch someone play as their favourite virtual athlete.

“Now instead of watching a digital Durant, you’re watching a Don from Detroit. The stories behind the players is what the NBA and league will need to solve.”

The NBA, though, argues that these players will be able to build their own fan bases over time.

The games will be played in one or two central locations and the NBA is currently in talks to have matches televised or streamed.


Donohue says the NBA 2K League has a handful of advantages for advertisers vis a vis other video games.

He says: “League of Legends? Incredible game. But to be honest if you don’t play the game, it can be quite intimidating. The 2K game is a more globally recognised game.”

But League of Legends is more popular, with around 27m daily users, dwarfing the 1.6m daily users of the NBA 2K game. Minns also points out that Twitch does not even consider NBA 2K and other sports games as esports so small are their audiences.

Other commercial advantages that the NBA 2K League has, Donohue argues, are that fans expect to see brands, like Mountain Dew, showcasing their ads during games, like they do at traditional NBA games, unlike other video games where it appears “inorganic”.

Donohue also says that advertisers could tap into the “coolness” of the NBA brand, hinting that brands could perhaps tie up not only with teams and players but also celebrity fans of the NBA.

“We think there is a unique opportunity to create incredible content around the cultural piece of the game. We are not just buying signage; we want fully integrated activation,” he says.

Details of the media rights have yet to be finalised while it’s also yet to be determined whether games will be played on Xbox, PlayStation or PC.

Conceivably, the NBA could strike a deal with Twitch to showcase the league while broadcasters like ESPN or NBC, which have already shown an interest in esports, could be in the mixing pot. Alternatively, the NBA has its own TV network, NBA TV, which it could use.

Minns says: “I would be surprised if broadcasters paid for stuff now. There is such a proliferation of esports content that they might struggle to get paid for broadcast coverage in the short term.”

But Anekal says the power of the NBA brand means the NBA will be able to land a paid-for broadcast deal.

Cross-promotion opportunities

Last year, the Philadelphia 76ers became the first North American professional sports team to own an esports team, when it reportedly spent up to $15m investing in Team Dignitas, an esports team which gave it a prized slot in the League of Legends Championships and other video games, but not basketball. 

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis have also moved into the esports space.

An appealing aspect of the deal was cross-promotion opportunities between the 76ers and their esports teams, such as the mass merchandising of esports player jerseys.

Biggs believes the NBA 2K League will offer similar types of monetisation opportunities.

He says: “We will integrate our team players into much of our marketing and promotion of the team. And we will work with sponsors to integrate the players. We have already been talking to them about the 2K League.”

He also thinks the 76ers could have a headstart on the court too, pointing to a better understanding of the mindset of gamers and how esports operates.

He says: “I think our experience with Team Dignitas over the past year has provided us with some valuable insights, knowledge and tools.”


Donohue thinks the NBA is on to a winner with the new league, driven by the recognition of the NBA brand coupled with the popularity of the NBA 2K game.

“This is a massive industry and we think we have a place in it,” he tells 

“There’s a significant appetite for the game in the US, but more importantly globally. We have a free version of the game in China that has 34 million registered users. That suggests there’s a global appetite for the game; in fact, I don’t think people understand how big the 2K game is globally.

“This is a long-term play for us. We expect this to be around for decades, so the primary goal is building an audience, doing that in the right way, and creating an environment where our players can be successful. We’re confident the revenues will follow if we do that right.”  But the league will need to not only convince fans of its appeal, but also market the hell out of it to make it visible on people’s radar.

While, as previously mentioned, less than 1% of gaming is in professional esports, a YouGov poll in the US found that just 29% of those polled had watched any coverage of esports before.

Anekal says: “I’d venture that initially, the league will be attractive to and played by existing NBA and NBA2K fans. However, I can imagine the long-term goal for the NBA would be to draw in a new, younger audience via the NBA 2K League who eventually become fans of the traditional sport.”

Interest in esports in the US and the rest of the world is growing but the NBA will need to break new ground and attract legions of fans to its league, not just gamers, if it’s to be seen as a success.  

Powered by the NBA brand, and its financial muscle, it has a chance of achieving this over time.

Exclusive: Underworld eSports Raises $10M From Grizzlies Kaplan, Survivor's Dr. Zahalsky


Underworld eSports Raises $10M From Grizzlie's Kaplan, Survivor's Dr. Zahalsky (Photo: The Next Level)

Underworld eSports Raises $10M From Grizzlie's Kaplan, Survivor's Dr. Zahalsky (Photo: The Next Level)

TNL Take: Money continues to pour into eSports teams. 

The Next Level has learned that Memphis Grizzlies co-owner Jed Kaplan and current "Survivor" season member Dr. Mike Zahalsky have invested in Portland based Underworld eSports.  Kaplan is also an owner of Swansea City Football Club of the English Premier League.

While the overall investment total was not revealed, the rumored figure is as high as $10M - which is an extraordinary amount for a team which currently competes in four titles ranging from Call of Duty to Vainglory.

Two other interesting aspects of this investment.

First, we’re beginning to see the second wave of professional sports owners who are seeing big investment opportunities in eSports.  Stephen Kaplan, co-owner of the Memphis Grizzlies as well, previously invested in team Immortals back in November of 2015 via Oaktree Capital.

TNL Infographic 027: NBA eSport Investment (Infographic: Jordan Fragen)

TNL Infographic 027: NBA eSport Investment (Infographic: Jordan Fragen)

Second, as Pro Sports team owners continue their involvement within eSports, what's the new investment trend?

Athletes and celebrities.

From NRG's recent investment from both Marshawn Lynch and Jennifer Lopez, Underworld eSports investment also includes Dr. Mike Zahalsky from the current season of "Survivor".

The deal was brokered by Bill Yates of the Sports Advisory Group who has also been linked to other eSports team investments.

EA Madden, NFL, Amazon, Mobile and eSports


EA Madden, NFL, Amazon, Mobile and eSports (Graphic: The Next Level)

EA Madden, NFL, Amazon, Mobile and eSports (Graphic: The Next Level)

EA Madden NFL Year over Year Comparison (Infographic: The Next Level)

EA Madden NFL Year over Year Comparison (Infographic: The Next Level)

This is one of three big changes to EA's Club Series with NFL pro teams. While last year started with 8 - Bills, Jaguars, Chiefs, Vikings, Patriots, Eagles, Steelers and the 49ers - this year, it expands to all 32 NFL teams.



EA 2017 Club Series Champion Prize (Photo: EA Sports)

EA 2017 Club Series Champion Prize (Photo: EA Sports)

The second big change is the amount of money on the line. Last year's 8 total events were for $10K each along with the Club Finals with a $50K prize pool, bringing 2017's total to ~$130K.

Madden 18's Club Championship total prize pool of $400K+ more than triples last year's total...with a catch.



In addition to the Club Series Finals being held at Pro Bowl Experience in Orlando, the winner will also receive 2 tickets to Super Bowl LII - another sign of the NFL's involvement.




Now is where things start to get really fun.

This past Saturday morning  I found something very interesting posted and tweeted the following:

EA Madden NFL 18 and Twitch Prime Integration (Photo: LinkedIn)

EA Madden NFL 18 and Twitch Prime Integration (Photo: LinkedIn)

The reception from the community was overwhelmingly positive and a YouTube video made just around my Tweet has 20,000+ views currently:

Mr.GoldenMut YouTube Video (Photo: YouTube)

Mr.GoldenMut YouTube Video (Photo: YouTube)

Twitch Prime and EA Madden NFL 18 Promotion (Photo: Twitch)

Twitch Prime and EA Madden NFL 18 Promotion (Photo: Twitch)

I've talked plenty about how Twitch Prime is genius and the ability to lure in publishers is so critical and this is another example.



The Patriots Winning Another Super Bowl (Photo: USA Today. Mark J. Rebilas)

The Patriots Winning Another Super Bowl (Photo: USA Today. Mark J. Rebilas)

In April, Twitch owner Amazon signed a partnership with the NFL for $50M to stream 10 Thursday night games to Amazon Prime members.

Everything is about selling Amazon Prime. Everything is about selling Amazon Prime. Everything is about selling Amazon Prime.

If 500K people sign up for Amazon Prime to get access to the NFL content, Amazon breaks even on the media rights. Even if they don't, it's more marketing and programming for their content chest.



EA Madden NFL Mobile (Photo: EA Sports)

EA Madden NFL Mobile (Photo: EA Sports)

One of the least publicized success stories in the mobile gaming space is Madden Mobile. During the NFL season the game is consistently in the Top 10 grossing on the App Store.

Go ahead and check where it is right now.

Amazon has invested greatly with Vainglory and mobile eSports and there's further opportunity here as well.



I covered this last week with Amazon's potential disruption of another industry - ticketing - and the huge eSports opportunity that it holds.

Now add NFL ticket purchases and all the additional value provided with the points above.



Don't discount the NFL finally getting into eSports and putting their name, marketing and executives behind this initiative.

The NFL is the 800-pound gorilla on top of the media and sports food chain.




It's great to see the largest and most popular US sports league jump into the eSports pool.

Now add in cross promotion between EA Madden, watching Thursday NFL games on Amazon, Twitch Prime integration, Mobile, the NFL's marketing machine and the vision starts to emerge.


But here's the reality.


/01 It’s nowhere close to what Activision-Blizzard is building with their Overwatch League, Riot Games’ North American League of Legends League or the upcoming NBA 2K ELEAGUE with more than half of the pro teams included.

For both the NFL and EA to emulate OWL, LOL, and NBA2KELEAGUE in such a short amount of time would have been a herculean task.  The information for the Madden 18 competitive season was released less than a week before the game launches.


/02 The total EA Madden NFL 18 prize pool increased from $1.000M to just $1.153M. EA should clear $750M+ in Ultimate Team earnings from primarily FIFA and Madden this year with continued growth.

Even the Club Series total while seeming high at $400K is the total for 32 teams - when looked at on an individual basis it's also a slight increase over last years $10K prize pool each.

A slight prize pool increase and fewer Athletes being flown out to events - while Ultimate Team dollars continue to flow in.


/03 No details were revealed around either Digital or TV distribution but I'd be shocked if the Madden 18 Championships were not either on a Disney platform or The NFL Network.


04/ Brands - where are they?

While last years Club Series did have brands present like Gillette and the Patriots, these deals were either added value or for very little revenue.


/05 This is the biggest difference between the 3 major upcoming eSports leagues and what European soccer teams are doing with their investment.

While the winners get a much larger prize pool, entry to the Madden 18 Championships and a slew of benefits, what happens with “NFL Club Winner” after this?

This program isn’t like being officially sponsored by a Paris St. Germain, which has many FIFA Athletes represent the club and provide the “3 M’s Of Why Pro Sports Teams Invest In eSports”™ - Marketing, Merchandising and Monetization.


Whichever NFL pro team does decide to become the innovator and begin emulating their European counterparts will start seeing the ROI with real investment in the eSports space much  more quickly than the next teams that will quickly follow suit.