This was the first time I was fortunate to speak with multiple members of a franchise’s esports program. Adam Rubin, manager of esports, and Mike Donnay, vice president of brand networks, are the backbone of the Detroit Pistons’ NBA 2K League program. It’s the perfect partnership. Rubin’s esports and content production expertise paired with Donnay’s background in digital marketing, will allow the Pistons to have one of the best esports programs in the league.
A Shared Love of Storytelling
Rubin’s love for telling stories was apparent in our conversation. He has spent his professional career excelling in the content creation space. He’s created Emmy award-winning content and served as creative director for an entire esports org. Rubin’s enthusiasm for esports combined with his expertise in production made him uniquely qualified for his current position. Thankfully, he’s had a partner in crime to help deliver his incredible ideas.
Enter Mike Donnay. Donnay has proven to be a digital marketing master in Detroit. After attending Michigan State University, Donnay climbed the marketing ranks in the Detroit area. In 2012, Donnay started with the Pistons. He created huge digital platforms in the form of social media accounts, mobile apps and the Pistons Program Network.
This dynamic duo has established themselves and their franchise as a leader in creating content. Rubin spoke specifically about how the Pistons made the best of a less than ideal situation.
“Our franchise made a decision to transition from perennial contender, to a young rebuilding team,” Rubin said. “We had to deliver more to our fans, and that came in the form of content.”
They were pleasantly surprised with how much the fans loved what they were producing. This not only demonstrates their talent and creativity, but also that they understood their fan base. Thus, Rubin and Donnay plan on taking a similar approach with their eventual 2K team.
Building from the Ground Up
It’s important to remember that with all this excitement and anticipation swirling around the NBA 2K League, there is no blueprint for what these franchises are trying to do. Rubin echoed this sentiment with a tweet Monday asking for patience and respect.
It always amazes me when I see a sheer lack of respect shown to those of us attempting to build something from scratch. We are all doing the very best we can when there are no blueprints for this. A little respect goes a long way #foodforthought
— Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinNBA) December 4, 2017
Donnay echoed Rubin about how new this concept is.
“We’re all in this together,” Donnay said. “We are essentially building the airplane in the air.”
I believe that there will be less frustration now that the NBA 2K League AMA with Brendan Donohue is complete. As a result, I see franchises getting the opportunity to focus on their individual programs and worry less about players inundating them with questions.
Preview as a Pistons’ Professional 2k player
I found this to be the most interesting and revealing portion of my conversation with Rubin and Donnay. Because the NBA 2K League had scheduled their AMA, I wanted to focus on the Pistons’ program specifically. Of course, like you, I wanted to ask about the tryout mode and draft process.
If you’re just an average sports fan, you’ve seen a piece about professional athletes getting involved in their community. Whether it’s hosting a charity event or remodeling a school library, it’s great to see professional athletes actively engage with their community. If you’re drafted to the Pistons’ team, it’s likely you’ll have a similar experience.
“We want to involve our professional 2K players in the community as much as possible…a professional video gamer will be more relatable to average child in the community.”
– Adam Rubin
Donnay added that access will be key and that the Pistons’ NBA 2K team will serve as an extension of the franchise. Both indicated that they would produce content about their 2K team in the same manner they have covered the Pistons. Rubin hinted at all the different content ideas he has for the team and allowing the community the access needed to connect with their newest professional athletes.
Silencing the Doubters
In every interview, I ask the same question for people who are skeptical about the NBA 2K League.
“If you enjoy watching basketball at all, you’re going to like the product we put on display…It’s just basketball”, Rubin said.
I love consistently getting that answer. It demonstrates that everyone involved understands their product and the distinct advantage they have over other popular esports.
Consistency and communication are critical to ensure the success of any venture, let alone the formation of a new league. It’s clear that the leadership of Adam Rubin and Mike Donnay exhibit these features in spades.
You can hear the full interview, including details about the national tryout and the qualification process to become a professional 2K player in the 2K Corner 3 Podcast by clicking here.
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