NBA Commissioner Adam Silver discusses fan experience, 5 for the Fight patch at Qualtrics summit

by Aaron Falk

NBA commissioner Adam Silver remembers the first game he ever attended. It was a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden. He was a young boy there with his father.

“I can almost smell it,” Silver said.

But he can’t remember who won.

“We remember the emotional connection and the experience,” said Silver, one of the keynote speakers Thursday at the Qualtrics X4 Summit in Salt Lake City. “Everyone’s in the experience business in this day and age. So how can we make that a more memorable and emotional experience?”

More than ever, the NBA is competing with other forms of entertainment but Silver said he is confident in the league’s future and commitment to innovation and improving the fan experience.

“If you think about peoples’ attention spans, I’m not sure if you were starting from scratch now that you would design a 2.5-hour experience,” Silver said. “…But when are we losing people? At commercial breaks? Is halftime too long? Are we losing them when they go to the free throw line? Even once they’re sitting in the stands, you’re competing against Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook. When those dancers come out and they’re throwing T-shirts into the stands, what is it we need to do to keep people engaged?”

Silver was interviewed on stage at the Salt Palace Convention Center by ESPN reporter Holly Rowe, a Utah native.

The commissioner recalled the day former Larry H. Miller Group CEO Greg Miller called him to discuss the possibility of putting a 5 for the Fight patch on the Jazz jerseys. Miller had been told by some at the league that the patch “didn’t fit squarely within the guidelines” that had been established by the league because the patch promoted a charitable cause.

“I think we were about 12 words into the conversation when I said, ‘Of course,’” Silver recalled.

Rowe has been diagnosed with cancer and has an inoperable lung tumor but is fighting her disease with the help of new drugs and treatments.

“I’m very passionate about what Qualtrics is doing with 5 for the Fight,” Rowe said. “You know how important it is to fund the research so people like me can still be living years after a devastating cancer diagnosis.”

Silver lost both of his parents to cancer and called the 5 for the Fight campaign “a cause near and dear to my heart”.

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