During the last weekend of February the spectacle that is NBA All-Star weekend descended upon Orlando, Florida. It seems that more than any other sports league, the NBA celebrates its star players by attracting the biggest names in entertainment, creating interactive experiences for fans, and providing a festive atmosphere for all who attend the three-day event. This year the NBA took things a step further, extending the All-Star weekend experience to fans all over the globe through social media. The NBA has become a truly global brand over the last 20 years, and with over 240 million global followers on social media networks it is easier than ever before to interact with basketball fans all over the world. Events such as All-Star weekend provide the perfect opportunities for the league, players, and sponsors to connect with fans.
All-Star Quality Content
The first step to creating a great online experience is by providing fans with quality content through easily accessible platforms. NBA.com featured an All-Star Scene Takeover on the sites homepage, where fans could engage with exclusive All-Star weekend content. Included in the Takeover was the NBA All-Star Weekend Social Spotlight, in which fans had the ability to follow tweets and pictures from Orlando in real-time along with following the All-Star Pulse to see who is trending at the moment. These resources also gave fans behind-the-scenes glimpses into the weekend, enhancing the overall experience for fans at home.
The quest for social engagement was not limited to North American borders. The league has risen tremendously in Asia, with over 40 million followers on social networks in China. The popularity of social networks such as Orkut and Tencent oversees requires the NBA to look beyond Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. The league’s partnership with Israeli start-up Shaker is evidence that they understand embracing emerging platforms early on can be beneficial. The collaboration with shaker resulted in launching a Facebook application that included basketball arena and virtual rooms where users could create avatars, interact with one another, compete in basketball trivia games, and follow streaming tweets. While it is too early to determine the long-term viability of the app, the fact that the NBA is willling to try new things to reach fans is a positive sign.
Sprite Slam Dunk Contest Gets Social
More than just fan-to-fan interaction, this year’s Sprite Slam Dunk Contest featured the groundbreaking step of eliminating the traditional panel of judges, replacing them with solely votes from fans. For the first time ever, fans submitted their votes via Twitter by using the hashtag #SpriteSlam and entering the name of their vote, which would be combined with text messages and online voting on NBA.com.
Since fans both at home and in the arena are so ingrained to look over at a panel for judging after each dunk, the event did lack the climatic feeling of previous dunk contests. Perhaps that may have been due to the lack of top-tier stars competing in the contest, but the NBA couldn’t simply wait for a possible Blake Griffin versus LeBron James showdown to get the fans more involved. The fan involvement across social media on a global scale indicated the time was right to use these platforms the further engage fans. More than 5 million votes were tallied, 10% of which came via Twitter. Jeremy Evans of the Utah Jazz squeaked out the victory over Houston Rocket Chase Budinger by just 1%, with Evans earning 29% of the total vote.
Since 2008 the Slam Dunk contest has feature a final round decided by fan voting via text messaging, but never before have fans been the only voters throughout the whole competition, nor has the use of a social media platform been incorporated. What may have been more interesting than the voting was the interaction on Twitter via the #SpriteSlam hashtag between players, fellow media members, and fans. Dunk contest participants started interacting before the weekend, as Derrick Williams and Paul George used this hashtag prior to the contest to showcase a little friendly trash talking. Fans and media members covering the event tweeted opinions and witty comments, which served as a great running commentary in addition to the TNT telecast. As the main sponsor of the event, Sprite had to be pleased with the interaction and exposure during All-Star weekend. While the actual competition was lackluster, the social media strategy of the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest had to be considered a success in terms of fan involvement.
What is in store for 2013 NBA All-Star Weekend?
So where does the NBA go from here? It is hard to say how much the social media landscape will change a year from now, so know one can know for sure. Based on the precident that the NBA and its players set this year, it is very likely fans will be pleased with their ability to connect with their favorite players.
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