NBA gets CMO

NBA gets CMO

Steve’s breakdown: Things are going well for the NBA. Hopefully the new guy won’t mess it up. Maybe you should give him a ring to make sure he doesn’t.

NEW YORK, NY: The NBA has gone to the ad-agency world for its new top marketer, hiring Jamie Gallo, now head of TBWA/Chiat/Day’s‘s New York office.

Mr. Gallo, who will take the role of exec VP-marketing, will be charged with overseeing brand strategy and communications at a time when TV ratings are up, the league’s social-media presence is booming, and basketball’s popularity is growing internationally.

In an interview, NBA Commissioner David Stern emphasized the global and digital nature of the job, calling the current moment an “inflection point.”

“We’re seeing such enormous opportunity on a global scale,” he said. “We think increasingly we can speak to the world with a unified message through all forms of digital and social media and other branding opportunities. We’re on the cusp of something really big.”

It’s a good moment for the NBA and one that seemed unlikely this time last year, as the threat of a strike loomed. The lockout cost the NBA and its fans 20% of the season, but basketball returned without any apparent damage to TV viewership or attendance and the league found a new sensation in Jeremy Lin, the New York Knicks point guard and an Asian-American player with icon potential, especially in the crucial market of China.

With players from more than 40 countries, 14 offices around the world and NBA China, a joint venture in the world’s most populous country—and one that happens to be crazy for basketball, the NBA is already a very global brand. Because Mr. Stern sees digital growth and international growth going hand in hand, one of Mr. Gallo’s tasks will be to continue the strong social-media presence of the league, teams and players.

Last month, the NBA became the first league to get 5 million Twitter followers, but it’s been more than just a numbers game, as fans used Twitter to vote on the slam-dunk contest this year and the league began selling T-shirts with players’ Twitter handles printed on them. The NBA even has its own Pinterest page.

Mr. Stern has known Mr. Gallo about four years, since they were introduced by a mutual friend to talk about marketing and possibly a role at the NBA. Mr. Gallo, however, decided to stay the course at TBWA and, in early 2009, was named head of the New York office.

In his new job, Mr. Gallo will report to Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver. Mark Tatum will continue to head up marketing partnerships, managing sponsorship deals and relationships. Danny Meiseles, exec VP and executive producer-production, programming and broadcasting, will continue to lead those three groups and is taking on oversight of the NBA’s Interactive Services department.

Asked about his priorities when he begins the job on June 18, Mr. Gallo said at first he’s going to listen and learn. “They clearly have done a lot of great things. How do you expand and amplify what’s already good and what’s already successful?”

Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, the NBA’s agency, produced the campaign “Happy Together,” featuring big bobbleheaded NBA stars doing a mock cover of The Turtles’ 1960s hit. Mr. Gallo said he couldn’t comment on whether that campaign would go on.

“It hasn’t been a discussion point,” he said. “I have no preconceived idea other than David likes the work and the campaign seems to be doing what they need it to do.”

Mr. Gallo, 45, is a lifelong New York Knicks fan and plays in a regular Saturday-morning game in Manhattan. (Full disclosure: This writer plays with him occasionally and can attest to strong court sense and a good midrange jumper off the dribble.)

Reached by email, TBWA Worldwide CEO Tom Carroll said he had no announcement on a replacement for Mr. Gallo. “I’m just really thrilled for Jamie,” he said. “It’s like someone asking me to play centerfield for the Yankees. What a great job for my pal.”


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