Damian Lillard and the Portland Trailblazers have made steady progress in 2013-14 on and off the court. (Portland Trailblazers)

LaMarcus Aldridge may be a surprise MVP candidate, 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 Portland Trail Blazers. Stay tuned to for ongoing coverage of the #NBADigitalSeries.

Let’s face it—we owe a lot to Oregon. Because of the Oregon Trail, we had the computer game (appropriately named ‘The Oregon Trail’) that both emotionally scarred us (did anybody ever live?) and taught us some valuable history (Soda Springs saved lives—who knew?). Mt. Hood, which provides adrenaline junkies with the largest night skiing area in the U.S., is another one of the state’s trademarks. But for all that the Beaver State gives us, we owe them a big thank you for perhaps the most important sports product of all—the Blazers.

Social Media Sharks

The Portland Trail Blazers have always had a loyal fan base.  From their introduction into the league in 1970 to present day, the Blazers have always had a penchant for connecting with their followers. Thanks to the social media explosion that happened somewhere between MySpace and Snapchat, fans can now follow the team in a variety of platforms.

The Blazers are smart—they have Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Instagram profiles. Each page is well populated with posts, pictures, and up-to-date-information. Perhaps most importantly—whoever is managing these accounts for the Blazers is engaging with fans. This allows the team to reinforce the idea that the players value their followers, and encourages more to join.

For example—let’s take a look at the Denver Nuggets’ Twitter page.

Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 9.30.58 PM

They have 266K followers, and are following 320 users; additionally, they have produced 16.6k Tweets.

Now, let’s take a look at the Blazers’ page.

trail blazers nba twitter

Although the Blazers have fewer followers, they are following over 8 times as many fans.  Additionally, they have produced double the Tweets that Denver has. As a fan, I’d be stoked if my team regularly updated their sites (and even more excited if they followed me!). Although this may seem like a minor detail, in a world where social media is evolving at the speed of light, it’s in the team’s best interests to keep themselves accessible to their followers.

Blazing Their Own Trail

Portland fans also congregate at blazersedge.com, which is a forum that allow for all things (pictures, posts, updates) related to the team. In addition to their various pages, the Trail Blazers also have their own, unique nickname. They are #RipCity.  This phrase was coined by Bill Schonely in 1971, and has stuck with the Blazers ever since. It’s like being part of a secret society—the fans and the team unite under Rip City, and it crops up everywhere from Facebook to Google+. Again, this encourages people to want to be a part of what Portland has, resulting (ideally) in a larger following.

In the spirit of not forgetting where you came from, LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez even got in touch with their dramatic sides and did a commercial for McLaughlin Auto Mall.

Though neither is likely to win any Academy Awards for their performances, the fact that they aren’t too high-and-mighty to do a commercial for their team’s hometown speaks volumes. By utilizing a wide variety of media outlets, the Blazers create a bond with their fans that is both unique and enviable.

Tech It Out!

Portland is also expanding its use of technology on the court. Recently, with the introduction of Dr. Chris Stackpole (director of player health and performance), the Blazers have begun using OptoGait technology.

The two blue bars are the OptoGait Technology sensors (OptiGait)

In short, OptoGait measures the gait of the athlete and helps find points of weakness. Ideally, the knowledge obtained from the data will help the players increase their power, balance, speed, and acceleration. Damian Lillard (pictured above) sang the praises of the technology, crediting OptoGait with helping him make a full recovery from an ankle injury.

Technology isn’t just for the locker room anymore—the Blazers have brought it to the bench. That’s right—Portland has iPads on the floor at their games. When they’re not on the court, players can watch game footage and make crucial, game-changing adjustment.

(OregonLive)

Watching game film has long been one of the best tools that an athlete can have—but usually the learning comes in hindsight. Thanks to the induction of the iPad, Portland can now see their shortcomings in real time. So far, so good—many fans are hoping that this year the Blazers will bring home an NBA championship.

Though the Blazers are having an exceptional season this year, they have always been a strong team with a solid fan base. As their celebrity gains momentum and their social media presence expands, it is evident that Portland will make a continued effort to grow with their fans. Each move they make is calculated and smart—they don’t celebrate frivolity—they focus on improving themselves.  No doubt, the Blazers will only continue to go up from here and their fans will benefit.