The NBA and Disney have partnered up to complete the basketball season in as safe a way as possible. In order to facilitate this a “bubble” has been created at the Walt Disney World resort housing players, media, and all of the people necessary to run this unusual operation.
Disney offers the NBA a lot of great facilities, including their resort hotels, the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, large convention centers, and years of experience in food service and other necessary industries. Based on how the bubble has operated up to this point, it seems Disney is viewing the NBA at Walt Disney World as almost purely a financial opportunity. With the financial situation at the moment, including the continued closure of Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, many movie theatres, and more, it is understandable why short term profit is front of mind.
However this immediate profit focus is a bit short sighted, even in this challenging situation. By bringing the NBA players, approximately 300 very influential people, a major marketing opportunity is created for the Walt Disney World resort and the Walt Disney Company as a whole.
While the COVID era is certainly a trying time with many devastating losses outside of the financial sphere, the world will ultimately go on and Disney should still be preparing for that. We have already seen that the NBA players are not afraid to post about their bubble experience on their social media pages. In the initial days of the bubble we saw many NBA players complained about the quality and portion sizes of their food options and about the conditions of their rooms. The NBA has since replaced Disney with private chefs to serve the NBA instead! On more positive notes, NBA players also posted their joy at receiving Mickey waffles and other such items.
Walt Disney World has already reopened and will certainly remain open for a long time after COVID, even if there are more lockdowns. As such, Disney should be using this NBA opportunity to further promote the resort and the company as a whole.
Since the first days of the bubble there have been very few Disney related posts from NBA players, beyond the generic day to day personal posts by players with Disney in the background. This is a waste of an incredible opportunity. Instead of serving the players the cheapest and most profitable food they can find, Disney should instead be serving them the best that Walt Disney World has to offer. This would likely lead these players to post about their meals in a much more flattering way and by extension, promote the Walt Disney World resort.
One great way to promote all of Disney might be by having themed nights for the players. Instead of generic food for dinner, have an Avatar themed night complete with food and drinks from Pandora: The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, a screening of the Avatar film (by the pool, in the lobby, or on the TVs in the rooms depending on the necessary spacing accommodations), and potentially even more themed entertainment opportunities for the players.
Similar type themed nights could easily be held to promote Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival, The Be Our Guest Restaurant, and so much more.
Also, where are the characters? Surely these NBA players would love a picture with Mickey to post on their instagram or send to their kids. It would be easy to bring a few characters into the bubble and have them featured throughout the months in entertainment for the players and media as well as some television appearances. They could have a backdrop where Mickey stands on one side, a six feet long logo (likely saying something to the effect of “NBA at Walt Disney World”) is in the center, and the player stands on the other side. This fun and unique photo opportunity would further promote the Disney brands and characters through the NBA players use of social media.
Disney could even modify this experience to incorporate characters based on the nightly themed idea I described earlier. Players might be even more eager to get a cool picture with Chewbacca and share it!
This is not just a missed opportunity for the parks. Any division could promote their latest product. Perhaps Disney should have provided all the NBA players free Disney+ subscriptions for their time in the bubble! How about temporary free subscriptions to National Geographic and D23 with magazines delivered to their hotel room door? Maybe provide some of the many Disney puzzles, board games, and more, available on shopDisney, in their rooms and common areas! There are so many opportunities for Disney to encourage the use and the promotion of many of their products and experiences without too much effort! While this would certainly cut into the short-term profit margin for this NBA bubble, long-term it would likely be a smart move to encourage future interaction with Disney from the vast legion of NBA fans.