The NBA’s Social Media Game
Michael Bass, Senior Vice President of Marketing Communications at the National Basketball Association provided insight on the NBA’s social media strategy reaching out to fans through Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube as well as the growing digital mobile landscape.
Michael stated that content is king and everything extends from the game and the players. Video is what NBA fans crave so the NBA has created a direct connection with fans by providing a forum to comment and share with each other. The NBA wants to be where the fans are: Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
The NBA got involved when Facebook was a college only network in 2008. When the NBA was about to hit two million Facebook fans they devised a unique strategy thanking their fans for growing that Facebook community. Five players were selected to acknowledge various fans through short video clips. Michael played one video clip that featured Dwight Howard thanking Dianne Perez for being fan #1,885,410.
Twitter offers many opportunities for the NBA brand, but enforces some strict rules: During NBA games all players, staff, and National Basketball Association executives cannot tweet forty-five minutes before and during games, and must wait one hour after the game has concluded. Shaq is the most popular athlete on Twitter with over three and a half million followers. Game 7 of the 2010 NBA playoffs between the Boston Celtics and LosAngeles Lakers generated 3,085 tweets per second at the conclusion of the game.
The NBA YouTube channel was created three and a half years ago and is the most viewed channel on YouTube. Video of Detroit Pistons Terrico White at the 2010 NBA Rookie Photo event created great organic coverage when an impromptou slam dunk contest broke out during the event. Word quickly spread of the posted video and twenty-four hours later there were 107,000 downloads on YouTube and 5500 likes on Facebook.
But with all these marketing channels where is the business model for using social media? Monetization – creating sales opportunities for ticket sales and sales to the NBA online store. The NBA partnered with the Dallas Mavericks to hit their fans and engage with their list for the 2010 NBA All Star Game held at Cowboy Stadium. Exclusive ticket packages sold out immediately resulting in 108,000 fans in attendance (most ever).
Michael concluded his presentation with what the future holds for the NBA and social media:
- Social media is in the toddler stage and still growing so there will be more activity on social media outlets.
- Exploring the mobile space as mobile trends are growing with hardware such as smartphones and iPads, and location based applications such as FourSquare and Gowalla providing location based promotional events where fans can win virtual rewards.
- More fan connection and interaction with sponsored content will enable NBA fans to provide feedback and participate in surveys.
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