Creators & Sports Meet Again

The NBA Gets its First-Ever Creator-Led Brand Jersey Sponsorship

Today’s Edition

  • MrBeast's Feastables becomes the jersey sponsor of the NBA's Charlotte Hornets in a first-of-its-kind partnership

  • TikTok tests a subscription service for an ad-free experience — why it will be hard to convince users to pay for it

  • X (Twitter) makes another questionable move in removing headlines and text previews for links

MrBeast's Feastables and the Charlotte Hornets Make NBA History

The NBA's Charlotte Hornets made headlines this week with the announcement of a new partnership with Feastables, the snack company founded by mega YouTuber and entrepreneur, MrBeast. Feastables will become their official jersey sponsor for the upcoming basketball season. This marks a first-of-its-kind partnership between a creator-led brand and an NBA franchise.

Inside the Deal

The Feastables logo will be prominently displayed on the Hornets' uniforms. But it doesn't stop there; the logo will also appear on uniforms for other teams associated with the franchise, such as the NBA G League's Greensboro Swarm and the NBA 2K League's esports team, Hornets Venom GT.

Feastables branding will also be featured on media backdrops during Hornets' press conferences and interviews. The two entities will work together on various digital media, content creation, and marketing initiatives.

A Win-Win Collaboration

A Milestone Moment for MrBeast

This partnership is a significant milestone in MrBeast's creator-entrepreneur journey. By becoming the official jersey sponsor of an NBA franchise, Feastables joins the ranks of global giants like Walt Disney World (Disney) and PayPal.

While MrBeast and Feastables already have a massive social media following, this collaboration will expand their reach to mainstream audiences. Additionally, with the launch of new Feastables products soon, MrBeast will be able to maximize awareness for these launches through both his own channels and the Hornets' touchpoints, ranging from social to the games themselves.

Lastly, it is another way MrBeast is staying connected to his home state of North Carolina. Last year, he and East Carolina University announced a credential program to prepare students to work in the creator economy.

Expanding the Hornets' Fan Base

The Hornets have a lot to gain by expanding their fan base, particularly among the younger audience who are avid MrBeast fans. MrBeast's dedicated following tends to support his endorsed ventures, making this collaboration a significant opportunity for the Hornets to reach new fans.

Moreover, it can also serve as a platform to boost the profile of Hornets players, including NBA All-Star LaMelo Ball, as there will likely be content collaborations between MrBeast and players across the team.

With Michael Jordan, the majority owner of the team for 13 years, ending his ownership due to new owners, this also appears to be a way for the team to find its new associated celebrity. MrBeast, who reaches a much younger demographic than the legendary Chicago Bulls player, provides a dynamic opportunity for the Hornets to make a splash and push the boundaries of digital innovation in the NBA.

Setting The Stage For More Creator-Led Brands

Creators like MrBeast have found success with their own brands, especially in the food and beverage space, by combining their dynamic talents with proven strategies and tactics used by established brands. This serves as a prime example of how creators need to expand beyond social media to compete with long-standing brands — in MrBeast’s case, Hershey's.

This also sets the stage for other prominent creator-led brands to enter the arena. One brand that immediately comes to mind is Jake Paul and KSI's PRIME. The beverage brand recently achieved its own historic milestone by becoming the first creator-led brand to run a Super Bowl commercial. It also already secured various sports partnerships, including with Barcelona, Arsenal, Bayern Munich, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the UFC.

NBA jersey sponsorships often come with substantial price tags. However, creators at the level of MrBeast can potentially negotiate better deals by leveraging their social media, marketing, community-building, and distribution skills. These opportunities can be more valuable than a monetary sum for sports teams, and creators bring innovation and additional value that traditional companies may lack.

The Larger Story

This is just one chapter of a larger story that is unfolding - the intersection of creators and sports converging. We have witnessed various instances this year alone, such as YouTube's inclusion of creators in its NFL Sunday Ticket Deal, Deion Sanders Jr. sharing behind-the-scenes stories of his father and the Colorado Football team, ESPN's multi-year deal with Pat McAfee, and Taylor Swift introducing a new audience to the NFL. Additionally, media companies like Paramount and The Arena Group have launched new offerings that bring creators and brands to develop content for sports publishers, events, moments, and more.

News, Insights & Trends

Instagram Tests Multiple Audience Lists for Stories

Instagram has started testing the ability for users to share Stories with multiple audience lists. Previously, users could share their Stories with all of their followers or their Close Friends list. Now, users will be able to create multiple lists of specific people to share Stories with.

Why it Matters: Creators have more options for what content to share and with whom they specifically share that content. For creators who share different types of content and have different audiences, this will allow them to tailor their content to the most appropriate audience. This feature adds to a growing list of recently launched features that allow for more selective sharing, including the Close Friends option for Feed Posts and a toggle to share content to the Feed or Profile.

Instagram to Hold Creator Focus Groups for Threads

Instagram will hold focus groups with creators for Threads this month, according to The Information. These will be overseen by Instagram's partnerships department, which handles non-advertising deals with media companies and creators. The focus will be on learning what will make Threads more appealing.

Why it Matters: Instagram's Threads strategy is still under development. To date, most of the attention has been on product improvements, such as introducing a web experience, keyword search, and integrations with Instagram to encourage users to use Threads.

By directly engaging with creators, Instagram will be able to obtain first-hand knowledge from one of the most important user groups for any social media platform—the creators themselves. These discussions will not only reveal what features and tools creators want (likely monetization-related) but will also help to create a stronger connection between Threads and its creator base.

Meta Begins Rolling Out Generative AI Features for Ads

Meta has announced that it has begun rolling out its first generative AI features for ad creatives in Ads Manager, which are expected to be available to all advertisers by next year. The features are as follows:

  • Background Generation: This feature creates multiple backgrounds for an advertiser's product images, enabling them to tailor assets for different audiences.

  • Image Expansion: It adjusts creative assets to different aspect ratios across surfaces like Feed and Reels.

  • Text Variations: This feature generates multiple versions of text for ads based on the original copy to highlight different product messaging and value props for various audiences.

Why It Matters: These features offer advertisers several key advantages, such as saving time and resources, enabling more tailored ad content, and ultimately improving ad performance. For example, the Background Generation feature allows advertisers to effortlessly adapt product images to different seasons, eliminating the need for entirely new photoshoots.

However, it's worth noting that as AI-powered tools become more prevalent, they may reshape the dynamics between creators and brands, as advertisers increasingly turn to AI for scalable content generation instead of creators to produce content assets for paid media.

TikTok Tests Ad-Free Subscription Service

TikTok is currently testing a paid, ad-free subscription service. According to screenshots, the platform is testing a $4.99 monthly subscription that would allow users to watch TikTok videos without ads. This includes ads served through TikTok's ad platform but not sponsored content by creators. A TikTok spokesperson later confirmed the test but said it is limited to a single English-speaking market outside of the United States.

Why it Matters: TikTok may find it difficult to persuade people to pay for an ad-free experience. This is because TikTok's ads are actually quite good. They are frequently creator-produced and resemble organic content, making them less disruptive to the user experience. Additionally, users can easily swipe past them, making the removal of ads less appealing to TikTok users than it might be to Facebook or Instagram users, where ads are more disruptive.

X Removes Headlines and Text Previews For Links

X made a significant change to the format of links. Headlines and preview text are no longer displayed when users share links. Instead, only the header image with the domain overlaid on it is shown.

Why it Matters: X's decision to entirely remove headlines and link previews is questionable, especially as it seeks to attract brands, advertisers, and publishers who rely on the platform for traffic—previously one of its biggest value propositions. With link previews now identical to image posts, this valuable feature is lost. Additionally, distinguishing reliable sources from potentially unsafe ones becomes more challenging

As I previously noted, similar to YouTube's evolving linking policies, social media platforms will continue to adapt. Therefore, creators and marketers must remain flexible and innovative in guiding their audiences to desired destinations. For X, this might involve manually incorporating context to make it clear when sharing a link or focusing on native long-form content and shifting away from a primary focus on traffic generation.

LinkedIn Expands Custom Button to Posts and Search

LinkedIn has expanded the functionality of the Custom Button. Launched in April for Premium users, it allows them to choose from a set of call-to-action (CTA) buttons (e.g., "Visit my website") and add a corresponding URL, which then appears at the top of their profile. Now, the button is also displayed under users' names/headlines on posts in the feed and on their profiles in search results.

Why it Matters: Making the Custom Button accessible in posts and searches enhances its effectiveness as a feature. By placing it in more prominent locations, users can increase their chances of receiving higher clicks on the URLs they add.

One way LinkedIn could enhance this feature further is by expanding the available CTA buttons, such as one for its Newsletter product (e.g., "Subscribe to my Newsletter"), which has been heavily promoted. This addition could provide value for LinkedIn Newsletter creators who share feed content in between editions. A dedicated CTA button could help convert those who engage with these posts into subscribers.

Canva Introduces A New Suite Of AI-Powered Tools with Magic Studio

Canva has introduced Magic Studio, a comprehensive suite of nearly a dozen AI-powered tools. Here are some notable ones:

  • Magic Design for Video: Upload images and videos and provide a prompt for their desired video type to generate a video with audio.

  • Magic Grab: Select and separate the main subject of a photo, creating an editable element that can be resized and customized with text, stickers, and more.

  • Magic Expand: Correct framing issues, expand zoomed-in images, and convert vertical shots into horizontal ones.

  • Magic Edit: Add, replace, or edit an image using a brief written prompt.

In addition to its creative tools, Canva also provides Canva Shield, offering brands data control options, privacy settings, and role-based permissions for Magic Design access. Eligible enterprise customers also receive support for addressing intellectual property claims related to Magic Studio content.

Canva Creators have the option to decide whether their designs can be used to train Canva's AI models. Those who grant consent to use their content for this purpose become part of The Creator Compensation Program, sharing in the distribution of $200 million in content and AI royalties.

Why it Matters: Design tools are gaining significant power through AI integration. Adobe's Firefly has been making headlines for months. Canva, with its similar capabilities added to its already robust design tools, intensifies the competition between the two. ByteDance's CapCut is also encroaching into Canva and Adobe's territory.

As AI tools become more accessible and easier to integrate, most apps are likely to offer similar capabilities, making it challenging for users to choose. Initiatives like Canva Shield and The Creator Compensation Program will help differentiate.

What I’m Reading

  • Instagram is still crucial for influencer marketing, even as TikTok is on the rise (Insider Intelligence)

  • Celebrities warn followers not to be duped by AI deepfakes (Washington Post)

  • It's not just you. LinkedIn has gotten really weird (Business Insider)

  • ‘Not mind blowing’: Brands that have started testing out TikTok Shop say it’s a slow burn (Modern Retail)

  • Why BeReal is launching its first marketing campaign now (AdAge)

  • Adobe teases new AI photo editing tool that will ‘revolutionize’ its products (The Verge)

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