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Bulls 2023-24 Schedule Release

Entered in Launch Campaign

Objective

‘Schedule release day’ has become a seminal moment in the world of sports social. Not only does it announce the return of the teams from an offseason of inactivity and make the upcoming season feel real, but in recent years it has become an opportunity for teams to flex their creative muscles and look to make a splash by executing the most creative possible concept. Particularly in the NBA and NFL worlds, it’s a day that explodes with creative content, and many in our industry have release day marked on their calendars to see what each team would come up with.

For the 2023-24 NBA season, the Chicago Bulls wanted to make the biggest possible splash and create a culturally resonant announcement that would reverberate beyond the teams most diehard fans – or even general NBA fans – and get the larger social world buzzing.

Schedule release day is not just about looking at the calendar and seeing who we play and when – it's a moment to announce that the Bulls are back and we’re bringing creative heat. With a team and brand with a uniquely global fanbase to begin with, we wanted to make something that would pop throughout the world and resonate throughout our fanbase.

Strategy

We approached the challenge by first analyzing and defining what made an impactful and memorable schedule release. After looking across leagues and teams, our must-have criteria included:  

  1. Rewatchable – The most memorable videos capture your attention so well you can’t watch them just once.
  2. Contain Easter Eggs – Fans love finding inside jokes and hidden secrets in the content. By hiding clues for our audience, the content becomes more rewatchable and sharable.
  3. Story Driven – The best videos tell a story and evoke an emotion immediately.
  4. Unique – In a crowded market and moment–in–time, the video must stand out visually or thematically.
  5. Culturally Relevant – The video needs to connect to fans outside of traditional sports references. It needs to tap into the broader zeitgeist and internet culture to be sharable to a larger audience.

Once we had defined these characteristics, we wanted to integrate a feeling of nostalgia and integrate our partner AT&T. We know that our fans crave a sense of nostalgia and shared cultural experiences, and we decided to design a90’s inspired 8-bit video game piece of content to unveil our schedule, a video that would call to mind one of the most iconic video games of all time.  

The video features the team’s beloved mascot, Benny The Bull who embarks on an adventure to get this year’s Chicago Bulls schedule. He explores Chicago landmarks including The Bean, Willis Tower and Lake Michigan before entering the United Center, where he battles several NBA foes including “Coach Pop” who sends out “Wemby,” Victor Wembanyama from the San Antonio Spurs, Nikola Jokić from the Denver Nuggets as “the Joker” and LeBron James from the Los Angeles Lakers as “Bron.”

Benny The Bull uses his skills including dance, shirt canon, half-court shot and popcorn dump, one of his most iconic in-game activities. But Benny can’t do it alone. He brings his friends “Flight 8” also known as Zach LaVine, who wields his skills to fly and step back to defeat the Joker, and “Deebo” better known as DeMar DeRozan who artfully pump fakes, screams and jumps to take down “Bron.”

The animation, scripting and concepting for the video was all done in-house by Bulls staff members, and the animation designs and sprites were hand designed and evoked the feeling of the 90s Game Boy style. We wanted it to feel true and instantly recognizable, and not just in a “remember this?” type way – it felt like watching a scene from a new game based in the Bulls universe, and immediately evoked emotion and feeling for everybody who watched it.

For years now, our partner AT&T has joined us and helped bring the schedule release moment to our fans, and we wanted to integrate their brand into the concept in a way that felt both natural and was additive. Incorporating them into the GameBoy start screen and then having them present the ‘battle gym’ was a nice way to naturally integrate a partner and ensure that this piece of branded content was one in which both of our brands would be elevated and shared within the world we were creating.

The Bulls followed the initial video up with screenshots, character graphics and other winks and nods to the schedule release throughout the season – incorporating the concept throughout the actual season to keep the feel and callbacks alive. During various home games throughout the season, we revealed new videos where Bulls 8-bit characters battled against new NBA-themed characters that matched our opponents on those specific nights. The video’s visuals also extended into game day graphics and giveaways, furthering the driving fan’s connection to the schedule release and its thematic elements.

Results

The launch campaign could not have received a stronger response, exceeding our expectations and previous schedule release metrics across social metrics and earned media. The visceral reaction of joy from Bulls fans – and well beyond, with gaming outlets and forums excitedly sharing the video and concept – went beyond the league’s schedule release competition and became part of the Internet zeitgeist, one of the day’s ‘Internet main characters’.

In total, the video itself received over 2 million video views, almost 3 million impressions, 31,000 shares and almost 75,000 likes across X, Instagram, TikTok and Facebook. On X alone (the platform in which team schedule releases are most aimed) the video earned over 1 million video views and nearly 2 million impressions. When compared with the entire 2022-23 season, this video was the Bulls’ second-most viewed X video during the NBA season.

While the numbers, shares, impressions and views are a nice barometer of the successful strategy in action, the concept really showed out in the actual response and tenor of conversation. The video was singled out and amplified rom media outlets like Bleacher Report, SportsCenter, Complex Sports and IGN who posted about our schedule release, resulting in more than 275,000 likes and 1,400 comments across those four pages in one week. The Athletic, the sports outlet owned by the NY Times, noticed the success and conversation and wrote a deep-dive article on the process, concepting and ultimate release of the video, titled “How the Chicago Bulls schedule release went viral.

The Bulls have had success in the schedule release space before – in 2021, our schedule release collaboration with NBA Paint won multiple industry awards – but this was a success on a completely new scale for us. Compared to that 2021 video, the 2023 schedule release had an 800+% increase in video views – a direct result of the video being embedded in tweets from media outlets, forums and other blogs. We also saw a 400% increase in social shares, 150% increase in likes and 112% increase in impressions.

The video was also widely covered by press with more than 50 total stories across global outlets. In addition to the outlets mentioned above, this release was featured in an array of media in and out of hte sports space, including Bleacher Nation, NBC Sports, Uproxx, USA Today, IGN, BroBible, Go Nintendo and more. It is rare that the Internet world unanimously celebrates and agrees on anything – but this is a piece of content that felt like everybody got excited about. Bulls fans or fans of rival teams, Chicagoans or people based in Asia, sports fanatics or somebody that grew up playing video games with no idea it was ‘schedule release day’ -  it didn’t matter your background or interests, everybody came together to celebrate a fun concept well executed. That’s how you announce that the Bulls are back for the season.

Media

Video for Bulls 2023-24 Schedule Release

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Chicago Bulls

Links

Entry Credits