Fresh off of a newly inked partnership deal with the NBA, Meta was looking to make a splash during All-Star Weekend 2023 with a star-studded, on-the-ground activation that would make waves on social media.

Helping people feel connected anytime, anywhere: that’s the mission of the team behind Meta’s Quest and Spark mixed reality product lines. Meta Quest is the official mixed reality headset of the NBA, letting fans get closer to the game than ever through live, MR broadcasts that put audiences courtside for primetime matchups. In January 2023, Reality Labs asked us to help them use NBA All-Star Weekend to tap into basketball culture in a meaningful way, generating buzz for Meta’s Quest 2 headset, and connecting the brand to a dynamic league at the intersection of sports, fashion, music, and tech.

Content that resonates isn’t usually made from behind desk. If you want to say something interesting, you first have to do something interesting worth talking about — especially when you’re trying to find your place in a fast-moving cultural conversation. So, we set out to create an IRL activation stretching across two days that would stand out against all the other chaos happening that weekend.

Worlds Collide

We discovered early on that the magic of mixed reality isn’t in what it looks like; it’s in what it feels like. When you put on Meta Quest, you aren’t just seeing another reality; you’re experiencing it. With this insight in mind, we developed a storytelling formula that gave us creative space to emulate the feeling of mixed reality for digital audiences.

Familiar personalities + familiar cultural references = familiar emotions. And when we used that formula to bring together personalities and cultural references in unexpected ways, we found that we could evoke emotions that were suprising and effective, and create an experience that reflected modern NBA fandom — where athletes are celebrated for off-court interests as much as on-court ability.

Setting the Stage

Like any good algebra equation, our formula for NBA All-Star 2023 came with its own variables and constants. The knowns? Seven-time NBA All-Star Dame Lillard. A roster of popular basketball influencers. And a few key emotions — particularly, competitive spirit and sense of accomplishment — that would connect the hype of the All-Star game to the might of the Meta Quest 2.

We plugged those constants into Worlds Collide and solved for the remaining variable: the cultural reference. What would make our audience feel like competitors? Better yet, what would make them feel like champions? Anyone who follows Dame knows his love for boxing and professional wrestling, so we set out to find a way to bring the big fight feel to All-Star Weekend.

The Main Event

We hit the ground running in Salt Lake City to pull together the first annual Meta Quest Beat Saber showdown, a two-day VR gaming tournament equal parts CreedBloodsport, and Monday Night Raw. We left the world of basketball behind and drew inspiration from Dame Lillard’s love of combat sports — the tuxedoed emcee, the ring ropes, and championship belts — and led the charge on concepting, strategy, experience and set design, event management, storytelling, and content production.

Why bring the Squared Circle to an NBA event? Because as every fan knows, basketball is about so much more than what happens on the court. So in order to build a genuine relationship with the NBA’s audience, brands need to talk culture, not just hoops. At an event where every other league partner brought branded hoops, jerseys, and basketballs, Meta was able to cut through the noise not only by being different, but by telling an authentic story of how the league intersects with culture.

And the Winner Is…

By the end of the weekend, our campaign comprised 150 pieces of content across owned and influencer channels, resulting in more than 16 million impressions. Dame himself even got in on the action, sharing highlights from the event on his social channels.

Better yet, the activation allowed Meta to reach new audiences, exposing them to the power and cache of mixed reality and cementing the brand that truly understands the league and its culture. The event was a springboard for future Meta x NBA content too, with posts immediately following All Star Weekend seeing 248% more reach, 466% more engagement and 562% more comments than averages.

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