How the NBA uses generative AI to create personalized content for fans

The NBA has launched its 2023 season with a new marketing strategy. NBA uses generative AI to produce customized content for its fans. The league is using Microsoft Azure AI Services to automatically create highlight reels for every player in every game, as well as social media and YouTube videos that match the preferences of different audiences.

What is Generative AI?

Generative AI is a type of artificial intelligence that uses generative models to generate new content such as text, images, music, audio, and videos. Machine learning models that learn the patterns and structure of a given dataset and then generate new data with similar characteristics are known as generative models.

NBA uses Generative AI to create realistic images of faces, animals, or landscapes that do not exist in reality.

NBA uses Generative AI for content creation

The NBA’s SVP of digital and social content, Bob Carney, explained that the league needed a way to scale up its content production and deliver personalized experiences to its fans. He said that the human staff could not handle the amount of content required for every game and every player.

“With generative AI, we can analyze and categorize every play during games, and generate individualized highlight packages for each player in every match,” Carney said. “We can also create social-style content that resonates with fans and drives them to our app, as well as longer videos on YouTube that cater to their interests.”

Carney added that the use of generative AI did not result in any layoffs at the company. He also said that the league’s app user base grew by 40% from 2022 to 2023, indicating the success of the new strategy.

Other sports leagues using AI

The NBA is not the only sports league that is using AI in its marketing efforts. The NHL and the Los Angeles Rams are also utilizing AI for content analysis and sponsorship support. However, the NHL did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

“… The use of generative AI… will bring speed and efficiency to the development of key assets for use in the app,”

Aakash Shah, strategy consultant for Prophet’s tech, media and entertainment practice.

Aakash Shah, a strategy consultant for Prophet’s tech, media, and entertainment practice, said the NBA uses generative AI to bring speed and efficiency to the development of key assets for sports apps. NBA uses generative AI to help sports leagues better understand their audiences and provide them with highly personalized experiences.

New features on the NBA app

NBA uses generative AI

As part of its app revamp this year, the NBA added new features that allow fans to access real-time content more easily. Fans can now add team and player tabs to the main screen of the app, where they can find the latest news, trending topics, vertical video highlights, and updates on their favorite teams and players.

Additionally, a new “Moments” tab lets fans scroll through unlimited NBA content using a vertical social media interface. Carney said that the league used its social media data to learn how its fans like to consume content, and created an intuitive experience for them.

The NBA’s social media team has also been adapting and optimizing its content, especially with the introduction of Shorts in 2021. Carney said that the league’s YouTube strategy has diversified its focus to reach more fans.

“The beauty of sitting on top of our social media data is you’re able to see consumption trends occur across such a large community just across the main NBA social media accounts,” “We use all that data to learn how our fans like to consume content.” 

Bob Carney

NBA’s advertising budget

Bob Carney refused to discuss the NBA’s advertising budget in detail.

However, according to Vivvix, the league has spent slightly more than $24 million on advertising so far in 2023, with paid social from Pathmatics. It is unknown how much of this budget will go towards generative AI efforts.