The G League might be the NBA’s minor league, but its marketing has been playing in the big leagues, thanks to Jasmine Lipford.
How NBA marketer Jasmine Lipford is raising the profile of the G League
Since taking over as its head of marketing in early 2021, Lipford has essentially built the department from scratch while overseeing national campaigns that have brought new attention to the league. That includes tapping rapper 2 Chainz (who is part owner of G League team College Park Skyhawks) to star in the 2022-23 season campaign called “A Whole Different League.” It uses his song “I’m Different” set against highlights of the G League’s biggest stars—and a former one, Jordan Poole, who now plays for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. The effort comes from Majority, which Lipford hired as G League agency of record in 2021.
The G League is “a hidden gem and it’s my role to unhide the gem,” Lipford said. A former women’s basketball player at Howard University, Lipford joined the league after stints at Anheuser-Busch InBev, Amazon and Coca-Cola, fulfilling a career dream of working in sports marketing.
What advice would you give your younger self?
When I was younger, I was hyperfocused on proving that I could make it, that I could be self-reliant—especially in the workplace. Now I’d tell my younger self that it’s OK to ask for help, for advice, to lean on team members or to seek out mentorship. Learning is a process that never ends, and learning from a support system that may have more experience is so important to the journey of becoming a leader and an expert.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
Investing in myself. Beginning in my early 20s, I’d use my very limited resources to invest in training programs, executive coaching and, later, business school, conferences, etc. It was always terrifying to write those checks, but I wanted to arm myself with the best tools available in order to find success in the long term.
If you weren’t doing your current job, what would you be doing and why?
I would still be a marketer. I’m passionate about brands and brand-building and I’m obsessed with customer insights. It’s always an honor when a company puts a brand’s management and strategy in my hands. I get the opportunity to nurture and protect what’s basically a cultural landmark while also representing and providing for the needs of consumers/fans/customers.
What should the industry do to encourage more women and people of color into its ranks?
I’d say that leaders should not only make themselves available for mentoring and coaching, but also do the work to understand gender, cultural and other nuances impacting a mentee’s career growth. As a Black woman, I was raised under the “twice as good” teaching, and to be perfect so I’d be less vulnerable. In recent years I’ve also had to bury the stress of the many societal headlines impacting Black people around the U.S. Any leader, regardless of background, should work to understand, not just manage, team members under their tutelage.
How do you expect emerging tech like Web3 and AI to impact your job in the future?
Web3 has had an early impact in sports, offering fans a new way to engage with their favorite players, teams and leagues in VR. It opens an entirely new channel to connect with our fans in innovative new ways. I don’t think that’s unique to sports marketing. I’ve worked on other brands in the past where experiential marketing has been a major part of our strategy. With Web3, brand reach with these activations is no longer limited to local consumers, but instead now can bring in a global audience.
I’m excited about the rapid growth of AI. I find myself playing with a different tool every day. I think that AI will help marketers save resources by way of both time and budget, giving us the ability to reinvest in innovation and new ways to build more intimate relationships with consumers.