- Dallas Mavericks owner and serial entrepreneur Mark Cuban joined AListDaily to explain why he’s investing in esports and partnering with video game company HyperX.
- Mavericks are one of the first NBA teams partnering with Take-Two Interactive for the NBA 2K League in 2018.
- Cuban has been an early investor in esports companies like Unikrn, SportRadar and Virtuix.
Entrepreneur, investor and Shark Tank TV show personality Mark Cuban is gearing up his NBA team, the Dallas Mavericks, for marketing to the millennial and Gen Z audiences that esports attracts.
The team has partnered with the Kingston Technology’s HyperX gaming division, which is sponsoring its NBA 2K esports team by being the official headset brand. The two companies kicked off their new partnership by celebrating Star Wars Night together on Dec. 2 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas while promoting the gaming brand’s headsets.
“Great products are great products,” Cuban told AListDaily. “I used them in a tournament and now my son and I use them at home. As Mavs fans are exposed to the brand and see our gamers and players use them, it will without question translate to sales.”
Next year, the NBA and Take Two Interactive will launch the NBA 2K League, which will allow amateur gamers to compete virtually as part of each participating NBA team’s esports roster. Basketball video game NBA 2K18 will be the centerpiece, with open tryouts for that new league scheduled for spring 2018.
“Make it fun; make it engaging,” Cuban said. “We can have a lot of fun with the HyperX brand both on court and with our 2K players, so fans can see our influencers using the headphones. We will be creating videos using our 2K players and Mavs.”
Cuban sees the NBA 2K League as an opportunity to attract a new millennial and Gen Z audiences to the real sport of basketball in addition to the NBA and Mavericks brands.
“How kids are introduced to sports is changing,” Cuban explained. “In the past, families gathered in front of the TV to watch their teams. That led to affinity for the home team or a team someone in your family loved. These days, if the family gathers, the kids have a device in their hand and their heads down.”
Cuban said the Mavs are pushing pricing lower and lower for tickets to make it family affordable. Such a move is easier make, as the Mavericks are in the midst of rebuilding the roster.
“Getting kids and families to a game are the best way to make them love the Mavs,” Cuban said. “Next on the list is getting them to play 2K. Kids who play know every player on the roster grow attachments to the players. Listen to kids talk 2K and they talk about who they play as. That’s why it’s important.”
While a growing number of traditional sports owners and ownership groups, including NBA teams like the Sixers, Heat, Kings, Cavaliers, Warriors and Rockets, are getting involved with popular esports games such as Overwatch, CS:GO and League of Legends, Cuban has strategically steered clear of these opportunities. He is still watching to see how the Overwatch League and the franchising of League of Legends in North America plays out next year.
“I chose not to get involved in those leagues,” Cuban said. “They are more global, but still trying to find their way and define their structure here in the US. With 2K, if we can figure out how to make matches exciting to watch in person and streamed, and build personalities that players and fans follow closely, we have a shot to be the dominant esport in the US.”
Having invested in companies such as esports betting start-up Unikrn, esports data company Sportradar and virtual reality accessory maker Virtuix, Cuban is strategically betting on the growth of competitive gaming. Last year, Cuban and company also mashed up the Mavericks fan experience with Minecraft, letting fans experience a scale model of the American Airlines Center
“Building the pipes, picks and shovels—products like HyperX, Unikrn, Sportradar, Virtuix and others—has [a] huge upside regardless of which esport is dominant,” Cuban said. “If the 2K league can become big enough with large enough prizes, the rewards will make competitions around the world more compelling, which will drive new fans.”
Cuban added that HyperX brings an abundance of experience to the gaming community, which will help the company serve as a valuable partner both on and off the court during esports tournaments and events.
Dustin Illingworth, HyperX influencer marketing manager, told AlistDaily that the partnership with the Mavericks gives the technology company “highly visible branding opportunities,” including a 30-second commercial at every home game, as well as table and stanchion signage, six activation nights on the concourse, and six giveaway nights wherein every person seated in a lucky row gets a Cloud Alpha.
“We have to speak to a different kind of gamer with NBA 2K League,” Illingworth said. “The language and expectations of a casual gamer couldn’t be more different than the hardcore League or CS:GO player. We have to find ways to create compelling messaging for the casual player, and continue to be evangelists for incredible sound and comfort even if the play sessions are shorter and less intense.”
The NBA 2K League will focus on establishing new esports stars by using the game’s MyPlayer feature, which opens up an aspirational element for the competitive league by allowing gamers to try out for clubs and then establish their own esports personalities alongside their teammates.
“It creates a really compelling narrative angle for us in that we’ll be able to speak to the casual gamer, while also celebrating the world of esports that we live and breathe every day at HyperX,” Illingworth said. “It’s the best of both worlds, and ideally we’ll be able to craft messaging, content and activations that appeal to both groups.”