News & Views

The Court Comes Alive

by Contagious I/O

This story originally appeared on Contagious I/O, our customisable research platform featuring the world’s most innovative, creative and effective ad campaigns and marketing ideas

Global shoe brand continues its Chinese basketball campaign with an LED-enhanced floor

Nike has unveiled the House Of Mamba, one of the final portions of Nike Basketball China’s summer-long RISE campaign, which scoured the country to find the most talented and passionate basketball players. Developed by AKQA, London, House of Mamba is a Kobe Bryant-inspired basketball arena featuring a state-of-the-art LED basketball court capable of displaying live video and responsive animated graphics without sacrificing gameplay.

Thirty basketball players from 27 cities in China travelled to the House of Mamba in Shanghai where they trained with Kobe Bryant for a week. Nike used motion tracking and wearable sensors to turn the LED court into a responsive training tool, displaying graphics on the court that responded to players' movements and positioning. The LED visualisation trained, guided, and challenged players through four different drills, as spectators and coaches, including Bryant himself, looked on.

The experience used infrared cameras to pinpoint athlete positions in realtime, with the floor graphics leading drills, tracking players or displaying the score to the crowd. It was also used to dramatise things like Kobe’s entrance, and to conduct a Q&A to launch a new Nike shoe, the Kobe 9 Flyknit. The agency called the House of Mamba, ‘a totally unique live experience – designed to be shared.’

Said Kobe: ‘It’s amazing what can be done nowadays. The potential and the possibilities of the floor are endless.’

RISE, according to Nike, is basketball’s first ‘social docu-drama in China’, cultivating an interest in the sport as people follow along via six weekly internet broadcasts. After a week in the House of Mamba, 12 players were selected to move on to the RISE finale in Beijing, with the three winners of that competition then moving on to the Nike World Basketball Festival in Barcelona at the beginning of September.

AKQA worked with Rhizomatiks, Tokyo, and WiSpark, a sports company based in Shanghai, for more than a month to produce the LED court.


Contagious Insight /

Creating The Court / We’ve recently started monitoring brands which are finding ways to turn formerly dead space into innovative media channels. This is a prime example of Nike capitalising on unused real estate to craft a heightened, connected experience. We wonder if the brand took inspiration from the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, who recently wowed fans with a projection-mapped court experience that made the hardwood come alive.

Nike has historically had an experimental approach with court creation – whether in its LVL UP football campaign in Dubai or its laser football pitch developed in Madrid for the launch of its FC247 boot. Other organisations, like Swedish cancer charity Cancerfonden and Budweiser’s Bud Cup, have also had some fun with non-traditional pitches. By turning the court into an interactive piece of technology, Nike took those campaigns to the next level, providing a fun diversion – and a usable tool – for participants and fans alike.

Connected Training Tools / We love how Nike has built training tools into the floor, elevating the value of the House of Mamba installation from pure entertainment to something useful for backyard ballers. We wrote about the 94Fifty, a regulation basketball equipped with specialised sensors to track and record movement, back in March of 2013. As sensors get continuously smaller, lighter and cheaper, it’s only a matter of time until these sorts of connected surfaces and equipment are helping athletes in any number of sports improve their game. Adidas’s MiCoach tracking technology has already been incorporated into the jerseys of MLS players league-wide.

Fun fan experience / Still, this campaign isn’t completely about improving the performance of a handful of Chinese basketball players. Instead, it’s Nike strutting its technological stuff in the hope of grabbing the attention of Chinese basketball fans. The star-power presence of Kobe Bryant helps get people watching, but it will be the LED court technology that keeps them riveted as they watch the game in a new light, quite literally. We’ve written at length about Data Visualisation Live, where brands turn live sports data into compelling visuals to enhance the spectator experience. Here, Nike has done that with its floor, while simultaneously creating a tool that carries over to improve the visual experience of people watching online.


This story originally appeared on Contagious I/O. Contagious I/O is our bespoke trends, inspiration, insight and analysis service, providing daily innovative marketing intelligence across a comprehensive range of sectors to brands and agencies across the world. For more information about Contagious I/O contact