‘GM School’ Gives Fans an Inside Look at the NBA, SAP Partnership

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Photo credit: GM School

SAP continues to leverage partnerships in ways to showcase its technologies.

Last week, the company and NBA premiered the series “GM School,” a reality TV show that allowed four aspiring general managers to test their skills.

As the power behind NBA.com/stats, SAP executives were looking at ways to tell the story of the technology they’ve built around that core of statistics and information. Following a brainstorming session with SAP’s sponsorship agency, Momentum, the idea of a reality program emerged.

“We were immediately intrigued,” said Dan Fleetwood, SAP vice president of global sponsorships. “It hit on so many themes, from providing tools to thinking about things in a different way.”

Like any reality show, “GM School” producers Jane Street Entertainment sent out a casting call and presented nearly 30 contestants to the SAP and NBA partners.

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From the NBA standpoint, league representatives were excited about the ability to run a competition to leverage the information in a way to generate interesting content and potentially recruit new talent.

“It’s a great content opportunity to program on NBA TV during a quiet time of the calendar,” said Evan Wasch, NBA senior vice president of basketball strategy and analytics. “More broadly, it’s continuing to build the narrative we’re an innovative and data-savvy league and doing so in a fresh format.

“Lastly, if we can build from there, there is a recruiting and fan development aspect. These were four candidates who, one day, could end up in a front office and there was a lot of commentary saying,  ‘I’d love to be part of it and show what I can do.’”

The show took the four participants through a series of three challenges. The first was a press conference challenge where they had to digest a stat sheet in 30 seconds and explain strategies and reasons for the stats. The second challenge came when they were given blind stats and had to draft two each before the picks were revealed as real players. The final challenge was picking a lineup of five players — all NBA players except MVP-type players were available — while staying under a salary cap, and explaining how they were envisioned playing together.

All the stats were derived from the SAP platform the NBA uses, which provides information from basic stats like points and rebounds to more nuanced items like tracking information, Wasch said.

“We are [advanced] in terms of data we present and use to tell stories,” Wasch said. “That’s what I found most interesting, is we’re letting contestants dig into the most in-depth stuff we have and letting them see how it all works.”

Continuing to level up partnerships beyond just providing the data platforms is important to SAP, Fleetwood said.

“We have done a great job with the NBA and NHL, and other partners like the San Francisco 49ers and San Jose Sharks,” he said. “We always said there has to be an authentic partnership, rooted in real stories. Now we’re telling those real stories around how these guys are using our technology.”

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The one episode was what Fleetwood called a “successful pilot” and now it’s determining what the future might be for “GM School.” The NBA would be receptive to the idea of extending to a full series, Wasch said.

There is actually a meeting this week to decide what could be in store for “GM School,” Fleetwood said.

“Right now, we’re excited about the initial reaction,” Fleetwood said. “Do we try to partner with broadcast? Go out on our own? It’s been overwhelmingly positive and we want to continue to tell stories like this.

“Maybe we extend the partnerships and do something like this with the NHL.”