Justin D’Apolito, Senior Manager Social Content, NBA | Hoop Story #066

Justin D’Apolito, Senior Manager Social Content, NBA | Hoop Story #066

Give us an introduction on your upbringing and experience with the game!

I'm originally from Wayne, New Jersey. I’ve worked in basketball pretty much my whole life. It’s been there since day one and I’ve built a career in it. I started as an undergrad at West Virginia University working as a student manager for the men’s basketball team under Bob Huggins. Post school I got an opportunity in Fall 2016 to work for the NBA. I’ve always had a passion for the game and that passion turned into telling the stories of players and growing the game and fandom behind the sport.

Did you see yourself where you are now?

I always thought the opportunities within the game were only what you saw on TV. You would see players, coaches, GM’s, front offices and stuff like that. I felt that that was the path for me. Just from being passionate about the game I realized there were other opportunities around areas that aren’t shown commercially. I got to see content jobs and opportunities working around the team. Social media was growing during my time with the NBA and it was something that I wanted to learn, especially around basketball. I didn’t know I’d be working in social media but it’s crazy how life works. Just be open to the opportunities that present themselves.

What media forms do you feel are best received by NBA fans?

Through what we’ve seen over time with media consumption, we have been adapting a lot of our content into vertical format. People are consuming this format across all platforms and it is also the format of our game. Platforms are adapting to this format more and more. “YouTube Shorts” is a good example of this. It’s also a vertical game that we cover. You have players that jump out the gym, Steph is shooting the ball from 30-40 feet, so we would like to have a vertical format that matches the game we love. 

In terms of key demographics, how are you capturing and gauging them?

We are looking to build the next generation of fans. These platforms give us the opportunity and products to do so. The NBA is a Global game. So, while we do what we can to build the U.S fandom and both domestic and international players there is a whole global consumption that occurs on our social platforms. We want to speak to fans around the globe about the players, team stories, history of them and the game. The 75th year anniversary last season was a big celebration of that for us. We’re just trying to show that historical lens of how much each season and game means to the league as a whole. We want to build the next generation of fandom and global audience for sure.

Give us some key pillars that help you remain successful?

Being passionate about what you do. Find a reason that’s bigger than you that drives you to build towards something and have a higher purpose than what you do. This is so important to have that motivation and drive. For me it’s the game and building the fandom. Second, being open to opportunity helps as well. People will ask, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” While it’s important to have direction, it’s also important to be open to learn and experience other things. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have made it to where I am in a space that I didn’t know too much about in the beginning of my career. Lastly is being collaborative. It’s important to work with and learn from others. It makes the end product so much better when there are multiple perspectives on the matter.

The advice I have for the next gen is to find those that have done it before you and learn from them. It’s not mirroring their path but finding the things that work from the people with those experiences. If you think you know it all then you stop learning. These platforms and technology change every day, the consumption and things the audience value changes, and it is important to continue to learn from that. For example, I have a 15 year old brother who I ask how he consumes content. So, picking up from the people around you will set you up for success. 

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