Bleacher Report has pioneered the use of animation in its sports content and is unmatched in the industry and wanted to develop another piece of content that would break through the clutter and resonate with fans.
The three-part series Hero Ball was a shining example of the type of creative content that Bleacher Report can develop in support of its partners at the NBA, fulfilling a mission to engage and grow younger audiences while maintaining a fresh appeal for the sport and League. To this end, the content was used across B/R’s NBA coverage to re-engage audiences and extend its reach even further as seen in split screen photos/videos here and here. It was also a series that resonated with the NBA’s players as much as it did its fans, with stars like DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and Dwight Howard directly responding and engaging with the episodes on social.
B/R is constantly evolving alongside social and cultural trends, and recognized anime as a meaningful genre to reach and resonate with Gen Z audiences. Hero Ball helped to differentiate and reinforce Bleacher Report’s voice and position as a leading digital sports media brand. Its development and distribution contributed to the overall success of Bleacher Report and its appeal toward audiences and advertisers. In 2022, B/R in combination with House of Highlights was the #1 sports brand on social with more than 56 billion video views and 6.9 billion engagements.
Hero Ball was created to entertain and engage the increasingly hard to reach Gen Z audience by tapping into the type of content experiences that resonate strongest on digital. The most recent Morning Consult report on Gen Z sports fans recognizes the shifting consumption habits of young sports fans. Hero Ball reaches these fans by serving them content in a format they recognize and enjoy, all the while bringing them deeper into the B/R and NBA ecosystems.
A creative distribution mix across platforms to reach audiences on their preferred platforms helped lift overall social views and engagements. Carefully curated posts and clip outs across TikTok, IG, Twitter, YouTube fueled steady engagement and views, while a campaign on Giphy.com generated the #1 trending gif in January with this driving more than one million views alone.
The series was also supported by a creative collaboration with one of the top NBA online creators – Kenny Beecham. Kenny is a frequent host of House of Highlights and B/R content, who makes occasional appearances on the NBA on TNT and NBA TV. His name is synonymous with young NBA fans and he has built a direct connection with these fans boasting more than 1.5 million followers across Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and Twitter. Kenny was employed to create an easter egg explainer for the series that gave audiences a look at all the inside jokes and fun references they may have missed. An example of that is here.
This diverse distribution mix broke the content out of traditional channels to reach a broader and more diverse audience.
Bleacher Report has a long history producing the most compelling animated series in sports. From Game of Zones to The Champions, B/R has carved a niche in sports entertainment devoted to high-production animation targeted toward millennial and Gen Z audiences. In October, Bleacher Report debuted Hero Ball, an animated series that envisioned the NBA season through the lens of a grand anime epic where stars including Ja Morant, Zion, Joel Embiid, Jayson Tatum, Giannis, and Luka clashed in “battles” to gain rights to all-powerful rings. Hero Ball took the long-standing tradition of Bleacher Report animation to new heights, and we nominate it for Best in Sports Social Media consideration based on the following criteria:
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