Carmelo Anthony has been the face of the New York Knicks since he was traded to the team from the Denver Nuggets (Arman)

Carmelo Anthony has been the face of the New York Knicks since he was traded to the team from the Denver Nuggets (Arman)

Carmelo Anthony may very well be an NCAA Champion and one of the best scorers in the NBA, but basketball has always been a team game. The 30 franchises that make up the league have generated a revenue pie in excess of $5 billion. The digital age has enabled this game to reach its worldwide audience anywhere, anytime. Teams can build up their own local fan base through the sundry of platforms available.

Much like our #NFLTechSeries, this time SportTechie delves into the digital strategies–from web, social media, mobile apps, and any other technological connection–of each team and analyzes them, including insights from some of the digital executives involved. Today, the #NBADigitalSeries 2013-14 continues with the New York Knicks. Stay tuned to SportTechie this month for ongoing coverage of the #NBADigitalSeries.

In New York City, the dribbles of a basketball might as well be the beat of the city. Regardless of the New York Knicks’ play of late, expectations are always as high as skyscrapers. Lifelong Knicks fans have yearned for another title seemingly for an eternity. Nothing would mean more than hosting a parade for the sport that matters most.

Likewise, New Yorkers are early and mass adopters of technology. The market size alone fosters ingenuity and consumption of all digital means. Silicon Alley is arguably the most competitive and vibrant tech scene east of its borrowed nickname. These factors certainly have started to crossover to the basketball culture–Basketball Passport would be one of the latest examples.

Thus, the Knicks are never not interesting, particularly as this synergy has manifested itself rapidly and amplifies the need to digitally engage fans.

Last season’s playoff run showcased the team’s aptitude to activate online and through social media. They took an organic phrase, “KnicksTape”, used by Iman Shumpert to describe the team and fleshed out a complete campaign for it. The Knicks partnered with an agency called Movement Strategy to launch a microsite that housed all Instagram shots hashtagged as #Knickstape and geo-targeted them to the respective borough where it took place. This hashtag was then used across other social and e-mail assets to spread the word, street team encounters, promoted tweets, and influencer outreach. The best Instagram photos were shown in all Knicks playoff home games on the jumbotron; over 300,000 submissions were ultimately compiled.

This type of viral campaign sheds light on what the Knicks are capable of; if and when the team gets their act together to make the postseason this year. At the moment though, their digital strategy has turned the page from #KnicksTape to something new.

Unlike most NBA teams, the Knicks have a unique website configuration by offering two different sites. The primary one consists of a similar layout as the other teams in the league. There’s a backdrop of the city with a vintage, digitized look that fades into orange at the bottom of the homepage. They also have a social tab feature on the left-hand side to prompt users to connect via social networks at any point navigating through the site. Every single home game is promoted with a player’s likeness as a pop-up ad at the top of homepage to encourage ticket sales. And the entire website is presented by Chase Bank as the main sponsor.

It’s the second site, however, that modernizes the entire user experience. presents fans a simpler, faster, and visually appealing interface they can gravitate to, especially milleneals. This site hosts content of all forms, with a greater emphasis on video and images. There’s a countdown clock feature to anticipate the next game; and the last three most recent games are highlighted when hovering over the games tab.

The team understands that video is the most consumed and desired content fans want, which they produce four key segments attached with sponsors like Sprite and Foot Locker. And players have their own personalized pages that include all their team-related content as well as their own Twitter, Instagram, and Spotify playlist.

The Knicks’ social media networks prove to be an extension of the online brand. They’ve elected to maintain a consistent presence and theme throughout these platforms. There isn’t too much differentiation of content or copy among these properties.

On Facebook, this medium stands as the team’s largest audience by far with 4.1 million likes. The cover photo (below) draws from what’s depicted on the primary Knicks site; five players cutout images and a black, digitized backdrop with a city building. This branding belongs to the overarching marketing message this season as “NY Made.”

knicks facebook

The prominent posts consist of branded images featuring a Knicks players and one of the opposition for pre-game and final score for post-game. These posts serve to have fans tune in to watch games on television and another way to garner more impressions for sponsors’ logos. The copy is rather straight to the point, Bitly links redirect users to content on secondary Knicks site, and wisely use the common #Knicks hashtag. They do leverage this page to have fans sign up for their newsletter and increase followers on Instagram through the tabs on top, but don’t do the latter for Twitter or other social networks.

Specifically on Twitter, the Knicks are just less than 200,000 followers shy of reaching a million. The feed is informative and score updates are a staple during games. They often share pertinent pictures taken for this platform before games and practices, which is interesting that cross-pollination to Instagram hasn’t been executed. Again, Bitly links are used to redirect users to content elsewhere.

Retweets appear periodically and are solely done for internal parties; fans can’t expect to be replied to either. While the #Knicks hashtag is used frequently, the team also recently did an activation with Footlocker to give fans a chance to win Carmelo Anthony Jordan Brand shoes by simply retweeting and following the account over the holidays.

As for Instagram, the aforementioned #Knickstape campaign from last season certainly brought focus to this platform. There’s plenty of room for growth here, particularly with a little less than half a million followers. Most of the photos are taken before games or at practice; diversifying the content besides jumpshots into personalization would help. The branded content deployed on Facebook are used here as well; perhaps different graphic effects could be implemented to enhance certain posts. The video feature is sparingly utilized, which offers another opportunity for other creative content.

knicks mobile appAnd in terms of the Knicks mobile app, the team virtually repurposes the secondary site,, into a smartphone format along with some interesting Madison Square Garden features.

Personalization to the user is provided through logging in via Facebook or creating a mobile team account; such enlistment is geo-targeted to prompt specific content. This process could be skipped entirely, though, to an interface that’s similar to Instagram with a scroll-down stream of imagery content, sans navigation tool at the bottom.

The team encourages fans to check-in at games through Facebook; and for those attending The Garden, live-stream video of replays and the MSG Network is available by connecting to the free Wi-Fi within the app. Directions, food, historical footnotes are among the Madison Square Garden options users can peruse. While e-commerce comes from ticket sales, this app is really tailored to fans at the games and trying to capture their data to optimize users’ purchasing power when they’re there.

The New York Knicks are struggling to find the right path towards success. The team is doing a lot as far as creating video content, yet their social media outlets lack to resemble the unique, live experience that going to The Garden brings. Even as fans crave for as much digital content as possible, it’s the Knicks mobile app that most closely harnesses the spirit of “the world’s most famous arena”–in spite of the team’s on-court hardships.