League partners with student team to identify promising markets for increasing player and fan diversity

Berkeley, CA, December 2020 — The NBA 2K League, the esports subdivision of the NBA that launched in 2017, has partnered with a team of UC Berkeley students to research ways the league can increase its diversity and expand to broader global audiences. After a semester of research, the team has identified 5 key countries for the league’s expansion playbook moving forward. 

The 2K League has seen immense growth in popularity over its initial few seasons, but the current player and fan bases consist primarily of males from North America. As a result, diversifying the league has been a key strategic focus for its business leaders. The UC Berkeley team, consisting of 5 students from various academic majors, employed advanced data science techniques to identify lucrative markets and crystallize a growth strategy for the league. Matthew Fyke, a team member majoring in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, explained, “we are utilizing a variety of data sources, such as social media activity and Twitch and YouTube viewership data, to analyze which countries may be worth the League’s focus.” The team also sourced external data such as Google search trends and Internet demographics.

Data analysis demonstrating countries’ interest in esports and basketball, per Google Trends. Countries such as the Philippines and Spain have high interest in both.

With the aforementioned data, the team applied unsupervised learning algorithms to uncover underlying patterns and trends to determine the most promising countries for expansion. Emily Smith, an Applied Math major on the team, stated, “algorithms such as K-means clustering and isolation forests have allowed us to identify surprising patterns in countries like the Philippines.” Aside from the Philippines, the countries where the team found the most potential include the UK, Brazil, Australia, and Spain. These countries stood out because they had a high interest in basketball and esports, and also had a large population of Internet users for the 2K League to tap into. The 5 countries also span various continents, conducive to the League’s goal of increased diversity.

The 2K League has already introduced a new team based in Shanghai in 2020, but this research will enable them to add new teams, recruit new players, and attract new fans from other countries across the globe. With the popularity of both basketball and esports skyrocketing throughout the world, the NBA 2K League has a chance to fill a unique niche for international audiences.

Team Github Repository: https://github.com/mattfyke/NBA2kLeague