How NBA 2K League Can Make the Leap in Season 3

At times during the first two seasons of the NBA 2K League, the entire enterprise felt like it was little more than an attempt to convert esports fans into NBA fans (if they weren’t already).

However, now NBA 2K League is making several material changes for Season 3 that aim to legitimize its place as a separate entity. Less than a week after its Season 3 Draft, the league announced Thursday the schedule and structure for the upcoming campaign.

The highlights of those alterations could prove transformational.

Perhaps the biggest structural change is one of venue: The league is moving its studios from Long Island to Manhattan.

The new facility comes with new opportunities.

On top of seating for up to 200 spectators, there’s a Bud Light-sponsored VIP Lounge. Also, the league will charge for tickets for the first time ever.

While that means new revenue streams for the league, they aren’t the greatest new opportunity at the new digs. The new space includes a streaming pod reserved for guest streamers and a new studio for capturing and turning around content.

That’s significant because it affords the league more opportunities to integrate celebrities into its content. Although the league has made no announcements as to who might be among those guests streaming from the pod in the future, fans should expect the league to represent a good cross-section of athletes, gamers and musicians based on similar previous initiatives.

Freshness and quality of content is pivotal in the constant struggle to capture attention, the on-site content production should streamline those operations.

Also released Thursday, the new schedule has some fresh edges, too. The league is trying to not only bring its product to more local audiences but create rivalries as well.

Last season, the league held two tournaments outside of New York City and it is expanding on that concept in Season 3.

It hasn’t announced yet where it hold “The Ticket” and “The Turn” in 2020 yet. Fans in other cities will see some regular-season action, however.

An example is a round-robin tournament at Disney World in Orlando on May 23. The four closest teams⁠—Hawks Talon GC, Heat Check Gaming, Hornets Venom GT and the hometown Magic Gaming⁠—will compete there on that day. Those games, save for the tourney finale, will count toward teams’ regular-season records.

Other venues in cities like Memphis and Minneapolis will host similar events throughout the season. The intent is to grow the national fan base.

While that’s a solid strategy, the best way is for the league to keep investing in its talent. It can’t market that talent effectively alone, however.

The key to blowing this thing up will be convincing the league’s non-endemic sponsors, like Budweiser, to create content for it. Most of that content would revolve around players.

Therein lies the challenge, however. Even the most well-known members of the NBA 2K League’s 23 rosters are only really well-known within the niche community. It’s somewhat of a Catch-22: Partners with the reach the league wants likely won’t want to invest their resources into NBA 2K League players right now because they’re an unknown commodity.

At the same time, it will be difficult for those gamers to ever become known commodities without such promotion. There are some options for brands willing to take a risk.

The Season 3 Draft Class includes the first Chinese player, Luck_Yi_Wesley. It also includes the first NBA 2K Legend to be drafted, Choc DF.

Choc might be a good prototype for the future of player promotion. His YouTube channel currently boasts 144,000 subscribers. While his inclusion in the league is a huge win among the niche community, it’s only currently a big deal within that group. Expanding upon Choc’s celebrity will require a different strategy.

The content creation space at the new studio is part of the infrastructure necessary for that strategy. From there, it’s a matter of putting that content out on the right channels.

Social media accounts for brands like Bud Light and Panera, (the draft’s sponsor last weekend), are a good starting place. If such content becomes commonplace during the season, the league’s reach could grow exponentially.

The change of venue and restructuring of the NBA 2K League increases its commercial potential. How much that happens depends on how well the league and its partners are able to market its talent in Season 3.