It might have taken him nine years and a
controversial trade, but last week’s NBA playoff final saw LeBron James claim the first NBA Championship of his career with Miami Heat. The glistening championship ring that had so long eluded him could finally be placed on his finger, much to the joy of millions of fans expressing their joy on social. Ron, Nike’s ‘ ring maker’, in its latest viral video, can also finally rest easy knowing that his work is done and the ring with its rightful owner.
As a part-time NBA fan but long time follower of
Nike’s foray into the sport, I’ve spent several years watching LeBron miss out and Nike’s Kobe Bryant puppet famously mock LeBron’s lack of rings. Nike’s rights with two of the sport’s most famous players ensured they were constantly associated with the top players, and this year was no different. In fact, the actions of the NBA itself also makes a great case study for how brilliantly sports bodies can work with social.
In the build up, and during Game five of the Finals, where Miami Heat beat Oklahoma City Thunder to win the Championship, fans mentioned LeBron James an average of 210,000 times per hour on Facebook and Twitter. Throughout the Finals alone, LeBron has been mentioned almost 2.5m times. Such is the scale of his success and appeal that LeBron has been mentioned more than teamates Mike Miller, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade combined. Despite being mentioned 478k times throughout the finals, Dwyane Wade attracted just shy of 14,000 mentions per hour in the build-up and during game five. Oklahoma City Thunder players didn’t feature quite so prominently, although Kevin Durant has racked up 1.1m mentions to date.
These stats are nothing short of incredible with a level of mentions leading brands would be proud of. But of course you have to remember that the NBA itself is in essence a top franchise. With 5.4m users following
@NBA on Twitter, it is in fact the most popular sporting league on social, and was the first to pass the 5m followers mark.
This level of popularity is promoted and heralded by the NBA, which began selling
Twitter handle t-shirts back in March. It then followed this up with the launch of Tumblr and Pinterest accounts to tie-in with the 2012 playoffs. The Tumblr account showcases images from recent basketball history, currently populated with Miami Heat images. Its Pinterest account has two approaches, the first as an ecommerce platform but also to showcase moments that make basketball such a great sport to follow.
Finally, the icing on the cake, underlining the importance of social media for the NBA, was the first-ever NBA Social Media Awards. Of course this is an event we had our eyes on, and it will be interesting to see if other sports brands follow suit.
The event awarded players for their use of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram and saw Jeremy Lin pick up the league’s ‘Social Breakout Award’ as his stand-out performances in February attracted critical acclaim. One of the most ironic awards went to Kobe Bryant, a player who gained the most mentions on Facebook and Twitter, although the player is one of the few big names not to have an account on Twitter. The full list of award winners can be seen
here, meanwhile, take a look at the ‘FTW Award’ winner as Kevin Durant wins the game with a buzzer-beater in December 2011.
So while the NBA is a sport using social across every major platform, and awarding players for doing likewise, will it only be a matter of time before we see similar movements in major sports around the world? We’ve seen some great examples already, but the NBA's efforts show how well The FA et al could do. But perhaps the upcoming Olympics will present us with some excellent uses from top athletes…Watch this space.
From Insight Executive Mark Stuart ( @MisterMumble) #YomegoSocial