One epic move can change up the dynamic of any sports game, and if it takes place during the final game in a championship series, it should be a no-brainer to the team’s social media manager to capture that visual of a big three-point shot, an impressive defensive block or the star player being handed the trophy. A collection of these can be used as a dataset for content creators and social media managers to keep fans ready and engaged.
While all major sports organizations have a presence on social media, the National Basketball Association (NBA) is a prime example of how beneficial it can be for a league’s brands. The NBA’s focus on having its players and teams promote themselves through social media resulted in its being ranked as one of the most innovative companies by Fast Company. And there are a lot of fans who continuously pay attention to games on Twitter, Facebook and even a team’s official app. Twitter is aware of this attention and released a blog post in 2018 showing which hashtag fans could use to connect and interact with their favorite team. One example is the Toronto Raptors’ #WeTheNorth hashtag, which is used as a rallying cry for many fans.
The last game of the NBA Finals in 2019 between the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors had 44% of the Canadian population, as reported by Sports Video Group, tuning in to see former player Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors win the championship. That’s a lot of eyes on a team, and with those huge wins naturally comes social media buzz: #WeTheNorth became a trending topic across the Twittersphere.
Flash forward a year later, and compare that to the ratings of the regular games for the 2019-2020 season. Even before the current season was suspended, most teams were relatively struggling on national networks, as reported by Sports Media Watch, and that includes the reigning champs. Even with those factors, the team’s official Twitter is still active with the same #WeTheNorth hashtag, and moments such as a tribute to the recently deceased Kobe Bryant have received thousands of retweets and likes.
This is part of the regular season cycle for any team in any sports organization. Fan interest will change whether a team is on a winning streak or if they are in a post-championship slump. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t crucial to keep finding ways to create interest in the brand on social media.
So why is game-to-game data and capturing key moments important for social media managers? Because any growing set of visual and hard data is going to be needed to create compelling content.
I know this because my team and I use unsupervised data and analytics to uncover deep insights into new ways to engage customers, better connect with audiences, outperform competitors and stay ahead of trends. When it comes to specific work done with sports teams, we have worked with Major League Baseball, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and various soccer clubs.
We use an artificial intelligence (AI) platform to analyze any date range of social media data, free of human bias and preconceived notions about content and audience. In addition to the unsupervised pattern-finding conducted by the AI, specific questions and factors can be analyzed.
Fortunately, you don’t need AI to do some of this analysis on your own. Your creative strategy for marketing should be focused on finding high-impact trends and identifying the best ways to execute them. When brands know this information, they get more buy-in from clients, fans and other stakeholders.
Almost every team in any league, not just the NBA, has its own Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and as well as an official app to share news with its fans. Two core datasets that brand managers can utilize to great results are team and player performances and knowing what the matchups will be like between teams. And since any sports-related news is more engaging through pictures, clips and graphics of any kind, it’s good to utilize the visual-sharing capabilities of each social platform.
Big plays can happen during the regular season against a rival team, in the playoffs and in championship games. For example, videos of someone like LeBron James scoring 20 points are going to get clicks and raise his profile, yes, but if it’s during a regular-season game, showing crowd reactions could be used for marketing how fun live games are. Or, if it’s a playoff game, it can be used to rile up fan support on social media, thus creating more of a buzz.
Then there is the topic of rivalries. Every league has at least two teams that are engaged in a heated rivalry. While the reasons behind the feud may or may not be hazy, you can share data about their rivalry going into the game. For example, the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers have one of the longest-running rivalries in NBA history. Having statistics based on previous defeats and victories is great for some initial pregame interest, as well as specific statistics about certain players.
But what about the actual game itself? Along with highlighting ongoing results, historical comparisons can be a fun way to bring the story full circle but keep fans informed of the current roster’s prowess. This can all be done through eye-catching graphic design or even a quick video.
But what about smaller-market teams? This is a common occurrence in any league, but it is not an unsolvable solution. Every team has a star player, even if they don’t appear on ESPN every day. Raising a player’s profile on social media can result in growing interest from casual fans, and that can include their ongoing conduct on the court/field/etc. or how they interact with local fans.
Conclusion: Keep Your Brand Alive
It’s not an easy job being a brand manager, let alone one for a major organization like the Los Angeles Lakers, Toronto Raptors or Boston Celtics. It takes a lot of analysis to figure out what can keep the diehard fans along with bringing in casual fans. But, much like how through a combination of luck and athletics, a seemingly impossible half-court shot just makes it to the hoop, a strong, up-to-date dataset will provide a brand manager for a team of any size with the visuals they need to create great, engaging content for the team’s brand.