The Sacramento Kings have been on the forefront of the NBA’s Social Media Movement
Sport Techie had the opportunity to talk with current Director of New Media for the Sacrament Kings, Andrew Nicholson. Entering his seventh season with the team, Andrew oversees long-term strategy, content and engagement for the Sacramento Kings online/social network. As leader of the new media team, he is also responsible for integration of all facets of Kings business platforms into ongoing interactive communication with Kings fans. Before arriving in Sacramento, Nicholson served as an intern and a part-time team member for Phoenix Suns TV and digital, respectively. The Minnesota native studied psychology and journalism at University of Arizona, and earned his bachelor’s degree in 2005.
Andrew and the new media team have the Kings on the forefront of social media, as they were the first NBA team to join Twitter in January of 2007, they were among the first teams to use Instagram in February of 2011, and the team’s YouTube channel has net more than 18 million views since the Kings joined the online video platform in November of 2006. This summer the Kings also became early adopters to utilize RebelMouse.
Look out for an official Sacramento Kings mobile app in the near future, which will be a new avenue to help keep Kings fans updated on their favorite team. The app will include news, scores, photos, videos and exclusive content.
Andrew, let’s start with background on you. How did you end up with the Kings?
My original aspirations were to be a sports broadcaster. After graduating from University of Arizona, I was fortunate to gain an internship with the Phoenix Suns broadcast team for a season, which led to a writing opportunity for Suns digital. After a year in Phoenix as an intern and part-time team member, a full-time “electronic media” position opened with the Kings, which I ultimately earned. Since then, I have worked my way up to my current role, and I am now heading into my 7th season with the Kings.
What exactly does being the Director of New Media for an NBA team entail?
Catering to customers and innovation are hallmarks of the Sacramento Kings, and as leader of the new media team we are on the frontlines of delivering on those principles 24/7. Our focus is engaging with Kings fans and creating compelling content. Our motto is, “Content is King, and the Kings are content.”
How do the Kings structure their Social Media efforts?
Primarily, the new media team overseas the development, creation, and implementation of Kings social media efforts. This includes online messaging, creative, and content. At the same time, we have an open and transparent dialogue between our department and the executive team, and we connect with fellow departments within the organization to help them reach their initiatives through online avenues.
What is the average day on the job like?
It’s difficult to define an average workday, as new media operates 24/7, 365. Weekdays generally begin with catching up on the latest Kings and NBA-related headlines, checking various social networks for unique and inspirational content. Upon arriving at the office, I’ll review our new media daily calendar. It maps out all of the content we have scheduled to post, and updates we plan to make to Kings.com and its related social networks. Throughout the day, there will be constant dialogue with my new media teammates, regarding the various projects or content in the works, and frequently includes reviewing online creative and revising editorial content. As the point person for the new media team, I’ll attend various meetings with fellow departments, such as corporate partnerships, marketing, and ticket sales. I’ll also oversee the coordination of messaging for our online networks, which includes dissemination of information and/or responding to fan inquiries. Often, there will be breaking news, or a press release, so we ensure that we are always prepared to share the news in real-time. Recently, with the Kings participation in Vegas Summer League, I joined our new media coordinator to assist in the coverage of practices and games. We attended to media availability, captured photos, produced a behind-the-scenes feature video, shared social media updates, interviewed players/coaches, and then refined all of the coverage to post and share online throughout the week.
Have the Kings social media strategies caused an increase in attendance?
The team’s social media efforts have had a positive impact on attendance. As an example, to create publicity around Sacramento’s lone nationally-televised game last season, we encouraged fans to utilize the hashtag #BlackThursday and to wear black threads throughout the week leading up to the game, as well as to the game, to showcase to the country how passionate and united fans are about the Kings.
Along with the #BlackThursday hashtag, we created a viral video around the Kings-Thunder matchup and offered a #BlackThursday ticket special to online fans. Some of the added creative elements included providing fans with #BlackThursday artwork to share on their social profiles. In addition, select fans who shared their Kings-supporting photos via Instagram were featured inside the in-arena program. Ultimately, the game was a sellout, and Sacramento defeated Oklahoma City in a thrilling game.
Fans can check out the online promo video for #BlackThursday here.
What is the Kings social media strategy going forward?
We constantly strive to find new ways to connect with Kings fans and create team-related content. We are always learning from our internal and external customers, so our strategy is ever evolving. We work in an industry that is constantly changing, so we are challenged daily to develop new methods to connect and share with Kings fans.
Have the Kings held a Social Media Day? If so, how did it affect attendance?
The team has hosted a number of social media-driven events at games, like the aforementioned Black Thursday game, and in the community in recent years, which have been well received by fans and made a positive impact on attendance.
As an additional example of a recent social media-driven event, the team hosted #IsaiahROY Night on April 18 when the Kings hosted the Spurs. Fans who purchased one of the 102 online-exclusive #IsaiahROY packs secured two lower level tickets for $60, and a postgame meet & greet with rookie guard Isaiah Thomas. After the pack quickly sold out, fans had a chance to purchase a second online-only #sIxTyROY Pack, which featured two upper level tickets for just $22. The second offer didn’t include a postgame meet & greet, but it did secure seats for a fun matchup between Isaiah and Tony Parker. Both the original and second pack utilized hashtags the team and Kings fans adopted during the season to promote Isaiah’s impressive first-year campaign.
Here is a link to the #IsaiahROY recap video.
The Kings went to Social Media to campaign Isaiah Thomas for Rookie of the Year last season (#IsaiahROY)
Which Kings players are on Twitter?
Nearly all Kings players currently utilize Twitter. We work with our media relations team to encourage players to use social media to promote the Kings, engage with their loyal supporters and be respectful of their audience.
Following is a link to connect with the team, players and more on various social media platforms:
What have you learned since being named Director of New Media for the Kings?
It is very fulfilling to work in a constantly evolving field, with an organization and fan base that is so passionate about an industry that I love. I’ve learned that it takes tremendous dedication to your craft, genuine respect and understanding of internal and external customers, selflessness as a teammate and effective communication to continually grow as a leader, manager and online producer.
Which social media platform has surprised you the most, other than the mainstream, Facebook, Twitter, etc.?
It has been awesome to see how fans have utilized Instagram to showcase their support for the team through the use of the hashtag #KingsAllDay.
We adopted #KingsAllDay to our season-long online conversation after it was widely embraced by Kings players and fans alike on Media Day — a day when we hosted a Kings.com live-streamed, social media-integrated chat with players on the 2011-12 Kings roster. After the interactive chat, fans had their first opportunity to see the new-look Kings in action at an open practice. It was a day literally packed with Kings content, which is how the hashtag #KingsAllDay was conceived. Since then we have encouraged fans to tag and share their Kings-related photos via Instagram for a chance to be featured on the team’s website. To date, more than 2,000 #KingsAllDay photos have been shared, some of which can viewed here.
What is RebelMouse?
RebelMouse is a relatively new platform, which creates a cool social homepage for its users. If fans visit the team’s RebelMouse page, they will see an array of recent photo-centric news items we’ve shared on Kings social channels. If a fan hasn’t been able to stay current on recent team updates, visiting here is a unique and fun way to get caught up.
Fans can also check out how the team has integrated RebelMouse on Kings.com.
What is your advice to someone in high school or finishing up college that wants to work in professional sports new media?
Having a passion for the game and a relentless work ethic are important characteristics to stand out amongst a vast population of sports lovers looking to break into the field. A focus in communications, public relations, new media or business information systems could prove beneficial, based on the skill set utilized in producing and posting online content, but getting a degree and first-hand experience in new media and in sports at even at a voluntary or internship level would put a person in position to start building a strong path to a career in sports new media.
Have a question for Andrew or the Kings? Connect with him on Twitter: @A_Nicholson.
(Photos Courtesy of Ezra Shaw/Getty Images North America)