In the past few years, the NBA has been upping their game on social media to connect with their millions of fans, to promote their organization and to drive revenue.
There are over 25 million people that follow the official NBA Twitter account alone. It’s safe to say that they have captured the hearts and energized an active fan base that is always checking their third screen.
They’re winning engagement by creating strong content, showcasing their players, and growing their following in effective ways.
The Sacramento Kings hosted ‘Social Media Night’ at one of their recent home games. Various activations took place including an Emoji Cam where guests could perform their best emoji face, a video board that played viral YouTube videos, and giant Kings player cutouts to take photos with and post on social media. An Instagram-famous mini-pig, @MyBestFriendHank, took over the Kings Instagram account that night too.
Engaging with fans in real-time and creating a unique experience for them at the game through the power of social media was fun for everyone. The Kings happened to win that night too.
On top of being the most dominant team the past three seasons by winning two NBA titles and having Stephen Curry take home two MVP awards, the Golden State Warriors also own another title: they are the highest digital revenue generating team in the NBA.
Only three years earlier, they weren’t even on the top five list for digital revenue. The team researched their follower demographics and discovered that 11 million of their Facebook followers are from the Philippines and the majority of their overall fan base are millennials.
Knowing this demographic information about their fans, they partnered with brands that shared the same audience. This strategy led to an exponential increase in followers on all social media channels as well as curation of authentic, valuable content from their fans. Today, the Warriors have nearly 6 million followers on Twitter alone.
The Atlanta Hawks don’t take themselves too seriously when using social media to engage with their fans.
They partnered with Tinder, an online dating app, to host ‘Swipe Right Night’ at one of their home games. They encouraged guests to use the app while at the game. If they got a match (or in other words, swiped right on a photo of someone who did the same), there was a dedicated seating area for the couples to meet and watch the game together.
There were Twitter activations, trending hashtags and a ton of noise on social media throughout the game. This event was so successful, one couple who met at Swipe Right Night got married three years later at the stadium, all expenses paid for by the Hawks. Tinder paid for their honeymoon.
The Milwaukee Bucks player, Giannis Antetokounmpo, was recently on the list of players to be voted for the NBA all-star award. This 23-year old rising star was running up against names currently dominating the court: Steph Curry, Lebron James, and Kevin Durant. He ended up winning second place in overall fan votes behind Lebron James.
Since Giannis is Greek (his nickname is ‘The Greek Freak’), the Bucks tapped into their global fan base to campaign for votes. All over Facebook and Twitter, content was posted in various languages asking the world to vote for Giannis for the title of all-star.
Their focus on going global and reaching fans from all over the world had a huge impact. Antetokounmpo surpassed Curry and Durant in fan votes and even had Lebron James running for his money.
The Portland Trail Blazers showcase their candid personality and create genuine content on social media that connects with their audience on a deeper, cultural level. Although they don’t have the largest following in the NBA, they have the largest engagement statistics, which arguably says more about the success of their social media strategy than anything else.
This year at Coachella during Portugal. The Man’s set, he performed a version of the Trumpet Song that plays at the introduction of every Trail Blazer home game. On screen, there was an eclectic video playing in the background that was dedicated to the players. Just a week earlier, the team posted a video on Instagram of Portugal. The Man rehearsing this set. The timing was no coincidence; there was thoughtful planning involved in this social activation.