- The National Basketball Association (NBA) has hired Kate Jhaveri as its new CMO, Bloomberg reported. She replaces Pam El, who retired last year.
- Jhaveri will start on Aug. 15, reporting to Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum. She departs Twitch after two years serving as the Amazon-owned streaming platform's chief marketer, and has previously worked at Twitter, Facebook and Microsoft.
- In her new role, Jhaveri will spearhead global marketing duties and consumer insights and analytics for the NBA, along with sharpening the organization's data strategy and growing work with esports and development leagues, according to Bloomberg. The NBA currently operates a development league called G League, which is sponsored by Gatorade and broadcasts on Twitch, and has an esports division called NBA 2K League.
The NBA has in recent years positioned itself as a more forward-thinking professional sports league in a bid to chase younger eyeballs and a fervent following on social media. Tapping Jhaveri — a marketing veteran with experience at both legacy and emerging tech heavyweights — indicates the organization will continue to ramp up efforts in areas like streaming and esports as linear TV weathers stiff headwinds from cord-cutting.
CMO Jhaveri's experience at Twitch could help the NBA better navigate a future less focused on set-top boxes. Twitch, which is mostly used to stream video games, includes interactive features like live statistics and feeds where users can chat with each other and the streamer. NBA league commissioner Adam Silver spoke at the Code Commerce conference two years ago about his vision of making the sports viewing experience more akin to that of video game streaming, specifically the model made popular by Twitch, in order to score with younger audiences.
In the time since, the NBA has experimented with new streaming content models. G League began livestreaming games regularly on Twitch at the end of 2017. The Verge reported last year that the NBA was testing a streaming service that let fans watch the fourth quarter of live games for 99 cents. Other leagues, such as the NFL, have also increased their presence on Twitch, with an eye toward features that allow micro-transactions and on-site shopping.
The NBA is attempting to innovate on other digital channels as well. In February, the league named AT&T as its official wireless carrier in a deal that included plans to create bleeding-edge fan experiences around virtual reality, mixed reality and more. Around that time, the NBA and data analytics partner SAP released a reality show called "GM School" that tested fans to see if they had the skills to become a league general manager. The program aired on NBA TV and YouTube.
Earlier this week, the NBA also teamed up with a company called Nex Team, according to Ad Age. Nex Team runs a mobile app, HomeCourt, that leverages machine learning and artificial intelligence to help players optimize their training. The NBA could use HomeCourt as a means to scout new talent.