Last weekend the 73rd NBA All Star Weekend took place as well as the annual NBA All Star Technology Summit where the NBA explores the trends and innovations in sports, media and technology. The NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, alongside rising star Victor Wembanyama, unveiled NB-AI, a groundbreaking AI feature that transforms live basketball games into animated movie scenes.


Through the NBA app, you can transform a live game into a scene reminiscent of the animated movie “Into the Spiderverse.” Players leap and dunk with exaggerated, superhero-like agility. The NBA constantly finds ways to revolutionise the game and enhance their fan engagement, technological innovations like this redefines how fans interact with live basketball games.

The introduction of NB-AI is part of the NBA’s broader strategy to integrate cutting-edge technologies into the fan experience. The league has been at the forefront of adopting technological advancements, from augmented reality (AR) features that allow fans to insert their faces into NBA highlights to discussions with Apple CEO Tim Cook on leveraging Vision Pro headsets for an immersive viewing experience.


By investing in technological advancements, the league is able to create personalised, and highly interactive experiences which leads to greater fan loyalty and more meaningful engagement, keeping audiences hooked during and well beyond the game. With younger sport fans increasingly watching games on mobile devices, in app features like NB-AI will drive more app downloads and user engagement.


The NFL did something similar last year with Toy Story. They produced an alternative version of the game to draw in a new and younger audience. The game was an animated version of the Atlanta Falcons vs Jacksonville Jaguars, hosted in Andy’s room instead of Wembley stadium.  They were able to broadcast on Disney+, ESPN+ and NFL+ and fans loved it.


ESPN aired an animated Toy Story version of the Falcons-Jaguars game, and NFL fans loved it

These sort of experiences are great for drawing in young audiences such as Gen Alpha, the generation succeeding Gen Z. Leagues shouldn’t just focus on their core audiences, they need to invest in the next core audience to follow such as Gen Z and Gen Alpha. Having buy in with these audiences now helps them build brand loyalty and generate lifelong fans.


When leagues put their fans at the centre of things and allow room for creativity, incredible things happen. Incorporating AI into fan engagement strategies allows sports organisations to connect with their audience in more meaningful and personalised ways. As technology continues to advance, AI will likely play an increasingly integral role in shaping the future of sports entertainment. Can we see something like this coming to the Premier League soon?

By: Subomi Odanye


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