Activative Campaign Of The Week - Basketball Super Stars ‘On Santa’s Lap’ For Festive ESPN Campaign Promoting Its NBA Xmas Day Telecast Games

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In the UK, Boxing Day means football, while in the USA Thanksgiving also means, er, well, football, but an American Christmas just isn’t Christmas without the NBA and so broadcaster ESPN is promoting the festive hoops fixtures with a new campaign claiming that Xmas is the official holiday of the NBA.

Basketball rules US sports on 25 December and, to drive home the message that televised basketball is the holiday sports staple, ESPN has teamed up with Father Christmas himself for a series of ‘On Santa’s Lap’ spots.

Running across television, digital and social, comic actor Jon Glaser dons the St Nick suit in a series of promotional videos featuring NBA players such as Ben Simmons, , Nick Young, JR Smith, John Wall and Bradley Beal (with a cameo from New York Knicks star Kristaps Porziņģis).

Each player/Santa spot in the series features a player discussing what he’d like under the tree in a way that showcases one his talent traits.

For example, Philadelphia 76ers rookie guard Simmons shows off his speed and ‘cookie-snatching quickness’, while Golden State’s Young’s asks Mr Claus to ‘take me to space’.

Actor Glaser, best known for his orthodontist/councilman role on hit NBC show ‘Parks and Recreation’, said that Smith and Young were the only players who seemed amenable to sitting on Santa’s lap.

49-year-old Glaser said the trickiest part of the ESPN gig was getting into Santa’s head: “I was like, ‘Who is this guy? What’s he all about? Did he ever want to be an athlete? If so, is he resentful in any way?’,” Glaser says. “I wanted to do him justice; it was really a matter of not insulting the man.”

The campaign saw ESPN work with Oakland-based creative agency Funworks on this year’s Christmas hoops campaign and this is the fourth year of ESPN’s ‘Santa Hoops Campaign’ and it is running across ESPN properties both on-air and online.


There is a strong heritage of outstanding Christmas NBA and partner activations: led by the brilliant 2013 ‘Jingle Bell Hoops’, plus, ‘ESPN Signs Santa’), ‘Ugly Sweater’ (,and ‘Most Dunkastic Time Of The Year’ .

ESPN#s Christmas Day hoops programme tips off with the 76ers and the Knicks, followed by a rematch of last year’s NBA Finals rematch between the Cavs and Warriors and then Houston Rockets V Oklahoma City Thunder matchup.

The league gets plenty of eyeballs in return for its ‘owning Xmas’ strategy: last season’s Warriors-Cavs Christmas battle on ABC attracted more than 10 million viewers – making it the fifth most-watched Yuletide NBA broadcast since the century began.




This case study originally appeared on Activative Source: our intelligence tool featuring the most creative and effective ideas in sponsorship activation, rights holder marketing and sportsbiz campaigns from around the world. Activative Source helps anyone in the world of partnership marketing understand why and how the landscape is evolving (and with what success).

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