How the NBA is “On the Ball” with Customer Engagement

Professional sports teams have long been masters of traditional media. For year now, sports events have been some of the biggest draws on television (think World Series, NBA Playoffs and the Super Bowl). The Sports section usually ranks second only to the News for reader attention in daily papers. And pro athletes rule as advertising goldmines for brands of every kind, from Gatorade to NyQuil.

It’s no surprise, then, that savvy marketing minds attached to top teams are using social media for everything from customer engagement to search engine optimization.

Interestingly, the NBA offers some of the deepest social integration from team to team in any sport, whether you’re a Golden State Warriors fan enjoying a social media-enhanced experience at Oracle Arena, or a Celtics fan tuned in to your team’s official Twitter feed. Or Facebook page. Or YouTube channel.

As NBA Digital SVP, Bryan Perez, explained to popular tech blog, Mashable, the league’s goal is to give fans access to the information they want about their favorite teams, when and how they want it. Their free mobile app, NBA Game Time, offers users up-to-the-minute game details, streaming video, team and player information and access to social media feeds.

Even traditional sports networks like ESPN offer digital tools to enhance their regular coverage, extending the viewer experience to their smartphones. And fans love it –maybe even a little too much, according to a survey from Yahoo! Sports about fan check-in habits. (12 percent of respondents (i.e., grooms) said they checked games scores while they were at their own wedding!)

It’s clear that digital and social tools are forging stronger connections between teams and fans—but the line between enhancing the experience and distracting from play can be a fine one. That’s why customer engagement should focus on extending the fan experience across channels, rather than encouraging fans to take their eyes off the game. Take Super Bowl XLVI for example. Although considered the most connected Super Bowl in history, the Indianapolis’ social media team took special care not to distract fans from play on the field.

After all, next time you’re at the Staples Center, you don’t want to miss a Kobe Bryant three-pointer because you’re trying to get the Lakers badge on Foursquare.

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