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NBA and Social Media, Redux

You can find Part I of my NBA social media ideas here.

I had so much fun writing up my first list of NBA social media initiatives that I thought I’d take a second pass at it.

In terms of delivering a marketing message, the NBA is in a wonderful position with extremely valuable assets: an engaging on-court product that delivers something new every night, a slew of superstars in the primes of their careers, vibrant personalities amongst players, coaches, and owners, and scores of rich content in the vaults.

NBA fans can go to a variety of different sources for news, information, and opinions about the NBA. But the NBA can leverage its assets to add value to fans beyond the third-party analysis that they can get elsewhere.

On to the ideas:

(Google+) Hangout with David Stern

If it’s good enough for the President, it’s good enough for anyone.

Recently, President Obama held a virtual town hall meeting on Google+. 5 handpicked individuals participated in the Hangout with the President and quizzed him on a variety of issues. In addition to the Google+ Hangout, the President also answered pre-screened questions submitted via YouTube that the public voted on.

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David Stern is, by all accounts, extremely quick-witted, funny, and engaging – listen to any of his podcasts with Bill Simmons if you’re not convinced. He’d kill in an environment like this. In addition to the State of the NBA press conference he gives during All-Star Weekend, the NBA should put him in front of fans in a social media setting. The hangouts could happen three times a season (start, All-Star break, end) or when major news breaks. The end of the lockout would have been a perfect time to hold one to clear the air and get fan relations moving in the right direction again.

The NBA could also have any major personality interact in a Hangout with fans. They could have Hangouts between NBA players where they discuss their favorite basketball moments or answer fan questions. Partner with USA Basketball and do a worldwide chat (actually, all of these chats should be global) with the Olympic team.

There are a couple of nice wrinkles to this plan. First, it’s video – so it’s naturally more engaging. From a fan perspective, you’d rather watch people talk than read an interview transcript – especially, when the personalities are the main draw. Second, with video you are creating assets that can live on all of your owned channels and can be shared across the internet. An hour-long Hangout can be broken down into several digestible pieces to be shared.

The President’s Google+ Hangout was widely considered a success with over 250,000 submitted video questions and countless more viewers for the actual Hangout. That NBA could anticipate strong engagement if it deployed a similar tactic.

Road to the #Finals

The NFL had a successful initiative in the Road to the #SuperBowl effort where it partnered with Chevy to essentially create a social media dashboard for the NFL. Users could browse tweets from players on playoff teams and could also see tweets with the hashtag #superbowl.

The success of this initiative hints at a broader possibility. The NBA should create a microsite – or a page on NBA.com – that is the NBA social media hub. Create an easy interface to display tweets from every NBA player, official team handle, owner, or senior executive. Organize it whatever way works best (maybe by team).

Make it as easy as possible for your fans to view the information that they want. I’d check this site once a day, minimum.

NBA Social Charity

NBA Cares is a great initiative. It’s clear that the players enjoy it and that the NBA is proud of it. We see commercials for it during every NBA game. Maybe there’s a way to involve fans into the philanthropic effort.

Given the existing NBA Cares infrastructure, I think that each NBA team probably has a few charitable efforts in its region that it regularly contributes to. The NBA should create team-specific hashtags (#PistonsCare, #KnicksCare) and pledge that it will donate X number of dollars to the charity that has the highest number of hashtag mentions while guaranteeing a minimum amount to each other charitable effort, or split the X amount of dollars proportionately based on the hashtag mentions.

There’s been success with social charity efforts. Street King (a client at my agency) pledged to donate a meal to a child in Africa for every Facebook visit it got during a specific week – there was a great response. The same has been done for disaster relief efforts – Bing donated money based on retweets during the Japanese tsunami.

Fans care and want to be involved. Give them ways, no matter how small, to be active.

Social Expert Community

This one is for the die hards and it’s a little more involved .

Obviously, its far too hard to create a new social network around a specific affinity. It seems highly unlikely and probably inefficient to sink money into creating a social network specifically for basketball fans.

What the NBA could do instead is bake social functionality into its owned channels. Take NBA.com for example. There is a wealth of content on the site in the form of game previews, recaps, features, news stories, and opinion columns. But, aside from comments, are there any social components to the site?

The NBA should create a simple widget, embeddable in every piece of content, that allows the average fan to answer questions about the NBA and flex their NBA knowledge. Here’s the wrinkle though. The questions are all predictions (e.g., “Will the Bulls beat the Sixers tomorrow night?” or “Will the Mavs be a higher seed than the Lakers in the playoffs?” or “Will LeBron win more than 3 NBA championships?”). Have the widget live on every piece of content (with questions tailored to that content), but also create a separate site where all the questions live and fans can ask their own questions also. Incentivize users to ask or answer questions by creating leaderboards and awarding prizes (trip to the All-Star Game or Finals, or season tickets) for the fan that answers the highest percentage of questions correctly. Give out badges and create levels of expertise (gamify (is that a word?) the process).

Sports fans LOVE voicing their opinion and they all think they know what’s going to happen down the line – this would be a perfect outlet for them to prove exactly how smart they are.


Now I don’t work for the NBA, so there’s a freedom to the ideas that I can throw out in these posts. But the NBA has a certain amount of freedom too – there’s a broad fan base that wants added value…just give it to them. You can be creative and you can be diverse. All of these ideas add value to the fan experience – providing access and information – deepening the fans’ relationship with the NBA.

Excited to hear what other ideas you all may have.