Guest Post: Aaron Syed Jaffery (@aaronjaffery) is Managing Partner of global digital sport consultancy NineteenEightyFour.
On the 8th October the NBA Global Games saw the Philadelphia 76ers take on Oklahoma City Thunders at Manchester’s Phones 4U Arena. One of eight preseason games being played by 12 teams, in seven countries, the NBA is serious about growing the game. So, NineteenEightyFour decided to have a look at whether the players’ manic schedules and chronic jet lag was all worth it. Determining whether social media was effectively leveraged to spread the NBA gospel during the Manchester leg of the Global Games.
Being a cheery bunch, we’ll start with the good stuff…
The social media build-up to the game started a whole 30 days ahead of tip off, allowing plenty of time to spread the word, get a few competitions in, and generally drum up pre-match excitement.
This enabled the NBA UK Facebook and Twitter pages to grow by around 13,000 likes and 1,000 followers during the 30 days, and NBA UK is still having an estimated Twitter reach of 28,000 users.
Fan Zone & #NBAMANCHESTER
Fan Zone was a free outdoor festival held at Manchester Printworks from 5th- 8th October. Part of an integrated experiential campaign, fans got the chance to meet the players, cheerleaders and mascots; as well as NBA legends Peja Stojakovic, Vlade Divac and Dikembe Mutombo. There were many interactive elements to Fan Zone too, including a display featuring all the NBA jerseys and a social media wall. And of course, there were lots of prizes to be won.
The entire Fan Zone event was branded on the basis of #NBAMANCHESTER, with fans and players encouraged to tweet, post and pin using the hashtag.
The @NBAUK Twitter account had previously averaged around 10 new followers a day, increasing 10 fold during the Fan Zone festival. The Philadelphia 76ers Twitter account @Sixers also gained 10,000 followers, and the Oklahoma City Thunders account @okcthunder gained twice as many at 24,000. Both @Sixers and @okcthunder kept fans in on the action, tweeting live updates and retweeting followers who’d tagged #NBAMANCHESTER.
Uniting the City
Knowing there wasn’t a huge basketball fan base in the UK, the NBA used the market for football to leverage their message.
The Philadelphia 76ers visited Old Trafford, Instagraming along the way, and the pictures taken received more shares than any other #NBAMANCHESTER content. And, the NBA UK Facebook page took it one step further with a post that cleverly pitted Manchester City’s Thabo Sefolosha, against Oklahoma City Thunders’ Serge Ibaka. Fans were asked whose side they were on, and told to Share for Serge and Like for Thabo. Unsurprisingly, Serge won and the post got 120 shares.
In addition, Rio Ferdinand, Darren Fletcher, David De Gea and Adnan Januzaj attended the game, and NBA UK made very sure the social media world knew about it.
It was win, win. Tapping into football got UK fans on side, allowing them to talk about something they love whilst giving the NBA message huge reach.
— NBA UK (@NBAUK) October 5, 2013
That’s all good. But now what could they have done better?
Good contents only good if people see it.
The NBA Manchester website linked to the Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest pages. However, Instagram and Vine were also used, and Pinterest wasn’t updated at all.
In addition, the content posted on Vine and Instagram – some receiving over 50,000 likes – wasn’t sign posted on the Twitter and Facebook pages.
Subsequently, whilst great content was curated and waiting to be absorbed by the social media world, the majority of the fans using Facebook and Twitter had no idea it was there.
Sharing content across platforms is an essential social media tenet, one that NBA could have used to amplify their message.
Big ticket faux pas
NBA Manchester was the first time an NBA game was played in the UK outside London. The London NBA games have always been sell-out events, however Manchester’s sales struggled to gain momentum. And so to ensure the arena wasn’t half empty, tickets were given away to the local community, and to people buying NBA merchandise in Manchester’s Adidas and Foot Locker stores. The fact that tickets were being handed out for free was enough to rile the average full-price paying fan. However, it was a 2 for 1 ticket offer promoted through Facebook that really outraged fans.
The general feeling on Facebook (minus the expletives) was that the dedicated fans who should be rewarded for their commitment, had in fact been punished by booking their seats early. The post received 50 lengthy complaints, and rather than dealing with the fans grievances, the issue was compounded when more vocal complaints were removed. NBA UK provided no response and instead let a PR train wreck ensue.
The Facebook offer may be considered an ill-advised move on NBA UK’s part, one that may have cost them a lot of true fans. Not providing any response, or trying to redirect the complaints through private messaging only worsened the situation. And it was an especially bad move when it could have been easily resolved by engaging the 50 or so disgruntled fans, and offering to resolve the situation.
IN SUMMARY: SCORED THE 3 POINTERS, BUT MISSED THE FREE-THROWS
The NBA scored highly in producing a campaign which gave them the opportunity to reach untouched parts of the UK market. By engaging with Manchester’s footballing idols it created a reach further than it could have imagined, and produced content with fantastic engagement.
However, avoiding some simple mistakes would have given the campaign even more solid results. Content wasn’t shared cross-platform, and the opportunity to amplify the message was missed. The negative PR from the Facebook ticket offer could have been foreseen, and appropriate plans put in place to deal with it. However, the inaction of the response may have left a rather sour taste in the mouths of the hardcore UK basketball fans.