2K Games used mobile-optimized Instagram and Facebook ad creative to announce LeBron James as its cover athlete before the launch of NBA 2K19 and then targeted the ads to both core and prospective audience segments, achieving a 24-point lift in ad recall.

US video game publisher

Founded in 2005 and headquartered in San Francisco, 2K Games develops and publishes interactive entertainment for console systems, handheld gaming systems and personal computers. It distributes its content via retail, digital download, online platforms and cloud streaming services.


lift in ad recall


lift in message association


lift in purchase intent

We wanted to expand ad reach to audiences who would be excited about the upcoming NBA 2K19 release and want to pre-order. The success of our ad campaigns on Instagram and Facebook came down to leveraging mobile-first creative best practices, and focusing on the right mix of traditional core and interest-based target segments, including Facebook’s new console gaming audience segments.
Recruiting for new players

NBA 2K is 2K Games’s series of basketball simulation video games, which has been released annually since 1999. 2K wanted a way to reach more core NBA 2K gamers—as well as new console gaming customers—and increase online pre-sales of the new NBA 2K19 game.

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Jumping out to the right audiences

2K Games was excited to promote the upcoming release of the 20th anniversary edition featuring LeBron James, NBA 2K19, drive anticipation about the release and encourage gamers to pre-order it online. First, 2K Games asked its creative agency, BSSP, to collaborate with Facebook Creative Shop and brainstorm what they hoped to achieve with the campaign creative, and how, before they shot a single frame of footage. They then developed Instagram and Facebook video and photo ads that followed mobile-first best practices, including up-front branding and optimizing for vertical viewing.

The creative had an inspirational theme of “They Will Know Your Name” and featured grainy TV footage of LeBron throughout the years and names he has acquired, including King James and GOAT (Greatest Of All Time). People could swipe up on a “Learn More” call-to-action button to click through to the NBA 2K website for pre-ordering.

Next, 2K Games’s media agency, Liquid Advertising, determined which audiences should see the ads, narrowing it down to 2 main target segments. 2K Games first served ads to existing NBA 2K players—a segment likely to be interested in the new version—using information from its customer relationship management (CRM) system to create a Custom Audience.

For the second audience segment, 2K Games expanded beyond its core audience by identifying potential new players through Facebook’s console gaming audience segments. 2K Games then served ads to this previously untapped group—consisting of people interested in console gaming generally—and then to the intersecting sub-set within that segment who are also interested in basketball.

By focusing on these segments, 2K Games zeroed in on audiences of potential customers, thereby broadening and growing its player base. The results of the June 5–19, 2018 campaign far exceeded gaming industry norms, and were determined with a Facebook brand lift study, which revealed:

  • 24-point lift in ad recall

  • 11-point lift in message association

  • 7-point lift in purchase intent

  • 10.7 million people reached