Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koonin on how COVID-19 is changing basketball

For Rapidly Company’s Shape of Tomorrow collection, we’re inquiring enterprise leaders to share their inside of point of view on how the COVID-19 period is transforming their industries. Here’s what’s been lost—and what could be gained—in the new environment purchase.


The NBA was the very first big North American athletics league to suspend all functions owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. Soon after halting games on March 12th, the league restarted on July 30th at the ESPN Vast Environment of Sports activities Complicated at Disney Earth in Florida. Inside the bubble, where by gamers ended up tested day by day and movements monitored, there have been 22 teams—16 bound for the playoffs, and six more contenders—who performed 8 regular year video games to figure out the remaining playoff places. The Atlanta Hawks weren’t picked for playoff competition, but with sporting activities groups now a 365-day-a-calendar year brand name procedure, their work was much from around. In reality, with their seasons ending months before than regular, it grew to become even extra tough.

Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koonin talks to Speedy Company about how admirer engagement has transformed through the COVID-19 period, and what the workforce is accomplishing to adapt for the foreseeable future.

Rapid Company: The Hawks weren’t inside of the NBA bubble, but you acquired to observe how the league and other groups operated in just it. What have been some of the most significant lessons learned from the bubble so much? And are they informing your ideas for the new period?

Steve Koonin: From a business aspect, we uncovered that there are distinctive options. I don’t know how much you viewed, but all of the flooring signage was digital, which gave the opportunity to attribute unique brand names. Microsoft Teams [was] integrated into the Tv broadcasts in purchase to place lovers almost in the stands, even while they had been in their dwelling rooms. It is challenging to look and see that we’re likely to begin next year with total stands. I imagine which is a protected assumption. So how can you make up for some of the attendance gaps with marketing and promoting programs that employ technological innovation in and around the courtroom? That is likely to be a big concentration for our team and many others.

Just one of the points the league and its broadcast companions did quite effectively is disguise Easter eggs in the broadcast, like Lil Wayne or team mascots, in the stands viewing the recreation.

FC: As strange as it was at very first, the NBA restart was a results in quite a few strategies, especially in the top quality of games and exhilaration amid enthusiasts. What does the reality that the league fared so perfectly devoid of dwell audiences imply for the small-term foreseeable future of are living functions and athletics broadcasting?

SK: Right before I arrived to the Hawks, I ran the Turner Leisure Community. What’s intriguing now is, I believe there were being 28 distant cameras being utilized. And the key phrase there is “remote.” The court reel camera that runs the size of the courtroom is quite interesting, but it would be complicated generally for the reason that 1 of the most distinctive features of likely to an NBA game is possessing your toes on the ground, so I really do not see some of these matters staying capable to keep on. But I do consider unique types of angles and accessibility is one thing that will live on.  We want a next-generation broadcast, and in some ways—and I suggest this with the maximum compliment—the broadcast has to have a ton of online video sport things, which bring in young audiences.

We haven’t even witnessed 20% of what technology can do yet. I want to be able to go down the courtroom and appear through LeBron’s eyes, which you can do with the Intel 360 cameras, and see the way he’s attacking the protection. These are the sorts of improvements that can arrive from this—hopefully—once in a life time predicament.

FC: To start with the time was suspended, and then the Hawks weren’t in the restart bubble. How do you maintain followers engaged anyway?

SK: A model has several distinctive aspects and to it. During the year, wins and losses and scoring crack-out gamers like Trae Younger seize the headlines. But we’ve also taken a pretty aggressive stand in our local community, which I imagine is a wonderful prospect. As before long as COVID strike, we arrived out pretty speedily on food items insecurity. We partnered with a community company called Goodr. We experienced crafted 28 diverse Hawks courts [community basketball courts built or refurbished by the team] around the metropolis, mainly in underserved spots. And we swiftly pivoted from obtaining courts be about basketball to becoming foodstuff distribution sites for households in need to have. We turned them into pop-up grocery merchants. We served tens of countless numbers of families new make, meats and other groceries, all over the city, to help fill the void of faculties closing, and other problems. People experienced the foodstuff they desired.

We also noticed that health care personnel ended up owning a difficult time having treatment of us as a populace while taking treatment of on their own and their people. We were being also saddened to see that area dining establishments ended up strike incredibly challenging. So we propped up a variety of community dining places, shifting them from eating places to area commissary, if you will. We hired again hundreds of personnel, and we well prepared foods for each change for medical doctors, nurses, pharmacists, experts, and custodians, so when they received off their change, they got two meals to take dwelling. We took absent that responsibility from people who have been doing work 12 hour shifts and extended.We did that for months.

In early June, we had been the initial [to turn our arena] into a polling center, the greatest in the condition of Georgia. It’s about supporting to make sure people had services that permitted them to vote, when staying socially distant.

The place is, you have to have many dimensions. It just can’t just be what you do on the courtroom. It has to be what you are doing in the neighborhood.