The NBA has been blazing a trail on Snapchat since February’s All Star Game and June’s Draft and as its new season tips-off the league is further ramping up its Snapchat engagement programme based around providing spectacular action and offering fly-on-the-wall access to the behind-closed-doors NBA secrets.
The NBA is posting Snapchat stories right through the week – spanning pre-game and in-game – with posts range from inside the locker room to off-day activities, from practice sessions and pre-game warm-ups to spectacular game highlights.
In fact the league is so committed to the social platform that it is even discussing Snapchat on its pre-game ‘Open Court’ TV show:
The NBA’s new whole- season-long Snapchat strategy is based around brining fans closer to the game with a real-time insider perspective both behind-the-scenes and on-court.
It follows on from three previous specific NBA Snapchat campaigns built around key NBA properties – The Finals, The All-Star Game and The Draft.
During June’s draft, the NBA aimed to keep engagement high through the off-season with a set of social media initiatives and marketing stunts.
The league used the popular social application – which revolves around vignette video messages that disappear after just a few seconds – to give fans a unique vantage point for the draft in real time.
Thus fans on Snapchat saw exclusive clips of players arriving at the New York event on the NBA’s bus, plus a close-up look at the table storing the team hats each drafted player receives from NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
This was further supported on the night by an NBA/Google initiative – #NBADraftCrash – which opened up a channel via Google+ Hangouts for fans to chat live to players on draft evening.
The best clips from both Snapchat and Hangout were also pushed out across the league’s social media channels – which the NBA claim collectively have more than 635 million fans/followers.
During the recent June NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs, the NBA produced exclusive Snapchat videos in between games, such as a clip featuring Spurs star Kawhi Leonard posing with NBA legend Bill Russell following the conclusion of Game 5.
Indeed the NBA SVP of digial media, Melissa Rosenthal Brenner, reports that the league was able to generate ‘hundreds of thousands of views’ on Snapchat during the finals.
The NBA actually first started testing Snapchat during its All-Star game in February.
The NBA experimented with Snapchat photo-sharing at the All-Star Game in New Orleans with an programme revolving around real-time highlights from the Saturday night Slam Dunk Contest on Snapchat.
The NBA also explored running an All-Star contest by sending a snap is sent to followers with a code that expired within a few seconds which followers can use to rack up points and earn NBA discounts or win prizes (from apparel and tickets, to autographed jerseys).
Indeed, the All-Star Weekend saw the league run a wave of innovative social media initiatives.
Other All-Star social initiatives included setting-up Instagram InstaStop photo booths at various All-Star Game events enabling fans to take selfies and post them to Instagram.
A matching selfie feature on Twitter, in the form of the Twitter Mirror, was used by players during the weekend.
The NBA also used the Twitter Amplify feature to post low latency video clips of the All-Star Game on Twitter – including alternate camera angles.
This stream was monetised by the league through a sponsorship with existing league partner State Farm.
Teams within the NBA are also engaging through Snapchat.
The Milwaukee Bucks, under the username ‘bucksdotcom’, are using Snapchat to offer fans a unique inside look at the team by using the Snapchat Stories feature to connect Snaps together in order to create a geneuine narrative.
The images and films play starting forward and are available for viewing within the platform for 24 hours before disappearing.
The Bucks are also using the channel to provide previews of upcoming promotions.
Brands are also working with individual NBA players across Snapchat.
One of the more interesting recent campaigns saw McDonald’s snap out pictures of LeBron James (and behind-the-scenes commercial footage with other endorser athletes such as Richard Sherman and Johnny Manziel (from the NFL) from its above-the-line campaign (alongside creative food snaps and McDonald’s contests).
McDonald’s believes that using Snapchat offers consumers and fans a unique look at their favourite athletes – a straightforward way of adding to its social presence.
There is no shortage of marketers stumbling over one another to experiment and engage through Snapchat, but why does the NBA believe its content and fanbase is so appropriate for Snapchat?
Partly because of the spectacular skill snippet nature of the game which provides a rich source of picture and short video content: from dunks and alley-oops, backdoor cuts and buzzer beaters.
Partly because of its extremely ‘social’ stars.
And partly because of its young fanbase.
After all, according to a recent comScore report Snapchat is the third most popular social app among Millennials (behind Facebook and Instagram, but ahead of Twitter, Pinterest and Vine): with a 50% penetration amoung 19 to 24-year-olds and a 33% penetration of 19 to 34-year-olds.
Snapchat claims 30 million active users and that users send and view more than 700 million pictures and 500 million ‘stories’ each day (which is enabling sponsors to create longer narratives).
The key to the NBA’s Snapchat success, according to Brenner, is that it had a legitimate reason to use the platform and take advantage of its unique characteristics.
‘We’ve found what works is using Snapchat to tease content and gave fans unique vantage point,’ she said.
‘Snapchat makes content more precious, and because it’s generally secretive what players do before games or on draft night, it gives fans a sense of being a fly on the wall.’
So, despite October seeing the NBA sign a huge new TV rights deal with ESPN majority-owner Disney and Time Warner Inc’s TNT, renewing earlier contracts set to expire after the 2015-2016 season up to the 2024-2025 season that includes live online video, the league will be adding more and more firepower to alternative media channels and platforms in the immediate future.
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