social media spotlight NBA - Branding Lounge

Ahhhh my favourite time of the year – the NBA playoffs. Already well under way, many fans and analysts will tell you this is where the real season begins: no resting of star players, physical plays and increased intensity. What more could a basketball fan ask for? Not much really, but there is more to NBA than the high display of talent, athleticism and teamwork – social media prowess.

That is right – the NBA as an organization has done a magnificent job through this year (and previous years) of utilizing social media channels to fuel their brand globally. It is now wonder there is a global demand for televised viewership of the league. This type of attention was not by accident or purely from all the phenomenal talent that the NBA attracts – the presence was built through strategic social media marketing services and efforts. Just take a look at the NBA twitter profile (just one among many of their social media accounts) and you will notice that there is over 7 million followers, and many, many more mentions. Keep in mind that this is the official NBA profile – each player, analyst, team, etc. has a profile of their own.

So how did the NBA brand grow so much? What is the secret ingredient to their online success? There are a number of key features of their online branding strategy which lead to this success, some of which I will cover below in order to showcase how this brand was successful in building an online community – and more importantly, how you can create a culture which encourages social media prosperity.

Encourage a Social Sharing Culture (Internal and External)

Whether it is user tweets, mentions from others or content regarding a topic – point out what is trending. NBA has done a fantastic job doing this focusing on their players (employees) who receive the most mentions in real-time. The screen shot below shows the social media section of the nba.com home page. The top performer of the day (May 07, 2013) in Stephen Curry (with reason too – he lit up the San Antonio Spurs in a thriller game!), but you can also notice on the left-side the content spotlight – images and videos (they rotate every few seconds):

NBA home page social media spotlight - Branding Lounge

If you were to click on the “Social Spotlight” section it would take you to this page:

social media content NBA - Branding Lounge

Here we can see a range of content from videos and images, to actual tweets and hashtags being highlighted (each panel rotates with fresh content every few seconds as well). This not only creates a dynamic social media page, but contains hashtags which allow fans, players, teams, analysts, reporters and everyone else connect on a similar topic.

What is so important about this? NBA creates a community, a place where all sorts of associated people are connected and help promote the brand. The players (employees) and teams (employers) share their content/updates and fans (customers) and analysts (media outlets) are able to quickly and easily connect to that content (and share their own) in real-time. It encourages sharing, interactivity, getting involved and most importantly recognition to respective contributors and the NBA brand!

Track Performance

Probably the hardest part of social media participation, at the same time one of the most important. Before you dive into any social media efforts, set measurable goals or KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). That will not only help you measure the success of your efforts and help attain goals – but it will uncover your top performers and contributors, helping you reward those who are top performers in image brand building.

If you take a look at the image below, you will see NBA has a real-time rankings for players based on the number of mentions (interactions) which in turn encourages visitors to get involved and spread the conversation (trend setting):

social media spotlight NBA - Branding Lounge

What makes the trend setting aspect so successful in this case is NBA’s connection between the top ranked performer and the content surrounding him. Below the players headshot you can see all the related dynamic content: videos, highlights, images, and blog posts. It create a content hub for the highest performer – bringing all the relevant information to one spot, making it easy to share and readily visible. Now that’s an MVP social media performance.

Reward Participation

Creating a culture where everyone is involved is difficult enough to begin with – make sure you encourage its continuation. Rewarding top performers encourages creative content to keep getting generated, trends to be set and everyone within the community to participate. As a matter of fact, NBA wants to encourage their employees and employers to keep interacting they made an award show solely for social media – how crazy is that?

Not that crazy considering the amount of branding that comes from social media outlets; they want to show their top performers that their effort is appreciated, noticed and encouraged. Below you can see a screenshot of NBA TV’s first ever NBA Social Media Awards:

Social Media Awards

Keep in mind that they keep these awards fun and entertaining – commentating from the one and only Shaquille O’Neal and Rick Fox (former players). Lots of watchable content: funny bloopers, best dunks, plays, assists, etc. – its the Oscar’s for NBA’s social media community.

This all sounds overwhelming, and the NBA is not a small business – it is a global force with thousands of employees at its disposal. But small businesses can encourage this type of digital branding as well – it is important to create an interactive culture, track internal and external performance and provide meaningful incentives to encourage continuous community building.

– N.R.

Written by Nem Radenovic
Marketing professional dedicated to learning & developing new ways to help businesses build their brand. In my spare time I keep active with basketball/volleyball, explore new travel destinations & read anything from fantasy to classic literature.