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Special Project

Special Project
From the 15th Annual Shorty Awards

Winning Time

Finalist in Local Campaign


HBO, one of the world’s most innovative entertainment brands, was launching Winning Time, a drama about one of the most famous basketball dynasties ever: the 1980s LA Lakers, aka the Showtime Lakers. With big names on the team like Magic Johnson, and a big budget behind the series, expectations – and business goals – were high.

We needed to:

That meant getting the Lakers’ hometown connecting with their team.

Especially once we found out that the NBA and the Lakers were no longer interested in promoting the show, since it highlighted some personal demons for players.

Angelenos’ love of their teams became the key to success. We recognised that the appeal of the 1980s Lakers went beyond basketball, especially when it came to their home city. So, we pivoted our approach, aiming at fans who followed all kinds of sports – specifically, those who followed LA teams.

When the LA Rams reached Super Bowl LVI – which, coincidentally, was in Los Angeles for the first time – it became the perfect opportunity for us to tell a truly Los Angeles story, and drive viewers to the show.

Strategy and Execution

The original plan was to promote the show to fans of the Lakers and of the wider NBA. However, we hit three major challenges:

  1. We lost support from the Lakers and the NBA after our show was revealed to uncover some of the players’ personal demons. They cut ties, and this made it harder to reach basketball fans, as we were banned from official Lakers/NBA channels.
  2. We couldn’t use the popular nickname ‘Showtime Lakers’
    Even though the 80s Lakers are known best as the ‘Showtime Lakers’, we couldn’t use the nickname because it might create an association with one of HBO’s biggest competitors: Showtime.
  3. We were competing against live basketball coverage.
    As Winning Time aired on Sunday nights – game night – we’d have to convince (LA) basketball fans to switch off live NBA coverage to watch (crucially, our show went head-to-head with LA Lakers and Clippers games).

While these were big challenges for our campaign, they forced us to refocus. Sports fans commonly follow multiple sports, and Showtime Lakers fans were no different. Informed by our insights about the show’s appeal, rather than focus on promoting the Lakers’ story exclusively, we chose to make LA the hero of our campaign – celebrating the city’s culture and local sports pride.

We began a local-first campaign that heroed Angelenos and their love for their teams in all sports. We pivoted to celebrating LA and the whole sporting world, not just basketball. That gave us access to the biggest stage in sports: Super Bowl LVI, held for the first time in LA, and featuring the LA Rams. Taking advantage of the perfect LA sporting story, we focused our campaign in and around the Super Bowl.

So, before game day, we teased trailers on socials, targeting NBA fans and fans of director Adam McKay (Stepbrothers, Anchorman).

We also launched an outdoor campaign, dropping posters across LA showcasing the cast and the Lakers legends they would be playing.

Then, during the Super Bowl, we dropped our trailer.

With LA as the star, we ran a 30-second commercial in the 2-minute warning of the 4th Quarter. It happened to be just before the Rams scored the winning touchdown, helping our LA-focused campaign come full circle.

We also pushed on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Post-game, we widened our net, and sustained conversation with 74 30-second TV spots in cable and sports shows, and sponsorships of the Winter Olympics and March Madness (college basketball).

We also launched takeovers of relevant titles, Bleacher Report, Vox, GQ, and Deadline, and the Vizio Smart TV home screen.

To strengthen our (unofficial) ties with the NBA, we purchased OOH spots in Cleveland (home of the NBA All-Star Game).

Mid-season, we integrated the show into former NBA pro JJ Reddick’s podcast, Old Man and the Three, where guests discussed series themes.


While it looked like game over for Winning Time, all it took was a shift to local. Focusing on LA changed the nature of our campaign in a powerful way. By pivoting from Lakers fans to LA sports fans – including NFL fans – we created a winning game plan for Winning Time.

Our media campaign smashed expectations:

Importantly, the exposure got people watching – and audiences growing week-on-week.

Slam dunk!


Entrant Company / Organization Name

Hearts & Science, HBO Max