Because of the agency’s track record, the Big 12 sports conference hired Translation as its creative agency of record to reimagine how it shows up in youth culture amid an evolution in college sports—which includes recent changes to name, image and likeness (NIL) deals giving more power to student-athletes now able to profit from their individual brands. Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark was CEO of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets when the team moved and rebranded from New Jersey in 2012; Translation was the agency behind that move.
“Brett, who watched us transition a team from New Jersey to Brooklyn, thought that we would be the best partner to help him with this transition in college sports,” Stoute said.
New business aside, Stoute said he is certain that Translation couldn’t do the defining work that it does without being tapped into culture and without diverse employees.
Of the 200 employees the agency employed in 2022, 50.5% were female and 15% were women of color; 48.6% were male; 0.9% did not identify; 24.1% were Black; 13.2% were Asian; 13.6% were Hispanic or Latino; 7.7% were of two or more races; and 41.4% were white.
“Multicultural is mass culture. Diversity is mass culture,” Stoute said. “How could you actually do a good job without being multicultural and diverse?”
Translation also made its workplace more equitable in 2020 by restructuring employee compensation to offer staffers, regardless of tenure, stock options in the company, which is relatively unheard of for an ad agency.
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"I have a lot of pride in the consistency. Whenever we show up, we show up in a certain way and we show up with a level of craft, storytelling and talking about things that not everyone's talking about but that we're pushing,” said Translation Chief Creative Officer Jason Campbell.
Case in point: When Meta’s WhatsApp tasked Translation with creating a campaign to connect it better with Latino audiences, the shop zeroed in on the deep connection Latina women have with music despite the dominance men still hold over the industry.
Translation tapped Argentine singer-songwriter Martina “Tini” Stoessel, Brazilian singer Anitta and Mexican-American singer Rebbeca Marie Gomez (Becky G) for a campaign aimed at amplifying female voices. It launched on the WhatsApp and Instagram accounts of the three artists, who used a new blue microphone sticker as a symbol of how the app’s features can help boost Latin female voices.
The campaign received 4.8 million views, 736,000 engagements on social posts and an overall 98.4% positive sentiment in earned conversation. And the agency reached its goal, with the most conversations coming from Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Mexico and Chile, across the 47 countries it touched.
For the NBA’s 2022-23 season, Translation had another big task: following up the stunning “NBA Lane” work it did the previous year for the league's 75th anniversary season—which included a metaverse iteration and a short film that starred actor and producer Michael B. Jordan.
Translation knew it had to find a way to hype fans back up. The agency landed on “Nonstop,” a new character and NBA superfan whose energy and “nerding out” on all the excitement in store for the 2022-23 season gave fans a relatable, affable mascot to root for.
After actor Keyon Bowman’s audition, there was also no question as to who should play “Nonstop.” Campbell said a lot of thought went into casting the character, including finding someone with the right age and energy.
At the start of the audition, Campbell said Bowman just took his phone out and “started walking down the street; this was not like a closed environment. He took his phone and just started talking to neighbors. We were like 'All right, that's the thing; that's the energy you need to carry this whole idea for a whole season.’”
Translation's research showed that 89% of younger core NBA fans and 67% of older core fans are “excited” by the new character. Across all audiences, more than 90% of fans are either excited or neutral about the superfan.