In 2022, ESPN wanted an exciting new look, feel, and sound for their NBA coverage, spanning screens and platforms. They began developing an all-new global brand identity that could capture modern basketball’s place in culture.
“We needed a fresh signature theme for NBA on ESPN that was modern, memorable and complemented the sleek, primetime look of our new visuals,” says ESPN Coordinating Music Director Claude Mitchell.
ESPN teamed with longtime musical collaborators Made Music Studio to create a record-credible theme that could usher in a new era for players & fans.
It’s a sonic slam dunk that will elevate our NBA programming for years to come.
– Claude Mitchell, Coordinating Music Director, ESPN
ESPN was looking to reach their increasingly young and diverse audience through this expansive brand refresh. And with the NBA’s direct ties to global culture through fashion, music, and instantly recognizable superstar personalities, they were looking to create an authentic expression of basketball culture today.
This would also be the first time that a new creative brand identity would be cohesive across ESPN’s collection of basketball properties, including NBA, WNBA, and all support programming. Thus, we needed to create a world of music that was flexible enough to supercharge the excitement of every broadcast — from pre-season to playoffs.
Creating the new signature sound of NBA on ESPN was a return to Made Music’s entertainment roots, having worked with Disney, TCM, HBO and ESPN’s own 30 for 30. To reach a new generation of NBA fans, we had to rip up the traditional sports theme playbook. Instead, we sought to reflect the music players & fans are listening to.
“Classic sports themes hold special meaning for basketball fans, including me and the rest of our creative team,” shares Made Music Executive Creative Director Amy Crawford. “We’re all players and genuine lovers of the game, and thought a lot about what we’d want to hear if we were in the warmup, or coming out of halftime.”
We looked to Michael Jordan playing through the flu, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s skyhook, LeBron James’ chase down block, or Luka Dončić hitting a setback three. Musically, we needed to capture their bold personalities, the energy of the crowd, and the excitement of a close game.
The new sound of the NBA on ESPN blends horns and modern hiphop textures to build drama & disrupt musical expectations, while also paying homage to the iconic brass energy fans are familiar with. “It’s a modern feel for the modern era,” Amy shares. “The new sound of the NBA on ESPN provides a soundtrack for our collective sports experience.”
The AMP award-winning theme’s iconic hook and hiphop feel are strategically designed to span across the network’s platforms and basketball properties, including NBA, WNBA, NBA Playoffs, and NBA Today. This record-credible track has already made its mark on culture, inspiring fan-created raps on social media, and an on-air remix from musical megastars DJ Mustard and Ty Dolla $ign.
“At the heart of our music you can hear the swagger of the players, the poetry and flow of the game, the intensity and drama of the fan experience,” said ESPN’s Coordinating Music Director Claude Mitchell. “It’s a sonic slam dunk that will elevate our NBA programming for years to come.”
The new NBA on ESPN brand theme has earned several awards for sonic branding, including:
Joel Beckerman – Founder + Executive Music Producer
Amy Crawford – Head of Creative
Mickey Alexander – Senior Music Producer
Lucas Murray – Senior Music Producer
Tevin Prince – Coordinating Music Producer
Eric Hall – Theme Composer
Ben Arons – Mix Engineer
Darren Moore – Mix Engineer
Dennis Wall – Mix Engineer
ESPN Creative Studio
Two Fresh Creative