In October, two days before the Los Angeles Lakers played their first game, one of the most valuable franchises in the National Basketball Association was preparing for the season with a quick round of meditation.
Heads bowed in the team’s darkened film room as they took direction on mindfulness from Andy Puddicombe, a former Buddhist monk and the founder of the guided meditation app Headspace.
Ross Hoffman, Headspace’s chief business officer, saw an opportunity on the horizon as he listened to an NBA player ask Mr. Puddicombe the best way to get back into the game after a missed shot.
A few months later, the seed of that preseason meeting has borne fruit: Headspace has forged a partnership deal with the NBA that gives the league, its players and its employees subscriptions to Headspace. In return, the NBA has agreed to produce guided training content with Headspace and feature the content on its app and platforms. Employees and players at the WNBA and the G League, the NBA’s official minor-league organization, will also get access.
No money changed hands as a result of the partnership, according to a source familiar with the matter.
In striking the deal with the NBA, Headspace is banking on the fact that the endorsement of the NBA and distribution on its platforms will prove to be a low-cost alternative to expensive TV spots and other pricey brand advertisements, Mr. Hoffman said. As part of the multi-year deal, Headspace is giving away about 7,000 annual subscriptions to its app, which normally cost $96 per year.
“We’re a lean company,” Mr. Hoffman said. “We have finite resources. We have to be really selective about how we spend money.”
The decision to partner up with the NBA is primarily a marketing play for Headspace, which gets between 75% and 80% of its users through word-of-mouth referrals, said Steven Clark, the vice president of corporate communications for Headspace. This deal is an attempt to take meditation out of the realm of chanting and incense and into the familiar, everyday territory of the basketball court.
The NBA App has been downloaded 42 million times, the league said. Content produced by NBA and Headspace will also be shared across the NBA’s social media platforms, which the league says have more than 1.4 billion likes and followers globally.
This isn’t the first deal Headspace has struck in the realm of sports. Earlier this month, Headspace announced a partnership with Nike to provide the sportswear company with guided running meditation. The content features Mr. Puddicombe talking runners through their training and mental state to help increase their performance.
Headspace last year raised $36.7 million from Spectrum Equity, its third fundraising round. That brought its total amount raised to $75 million, according to the company. The company declined to disclose how many subscribers it has but said it’s reached more than 25 million users in 190 countries.
In striking a deal with Headspace, the NBA is hoping to make basketball more accessible to fans by giving them the ability to try new training techniques that can prepare players for competition, said Melissa Brenner, executive vice president of digital media for the NBA.
“We’re focused on how technology can improve the fan experience,” Ms. Brenner said. “And this technology provides an opportunity to reach fans and train every athlete — not just elite athletes.”
Article written by Benjamin Mullin, Wall Street Journal