NBA Wins with New Media

4 11 2009

The National basketball Association saw a record league-wide drop in season ticket prices last year, resulting in a search  for alternative, cheaper routes to connect with fans.

More than half of the NBA’s 30 franchises lost money in the 2008-2009 season, and Commissioner David Stern expects that this season the League could its revenue drop by at least 5%, said David Biderman in his wsj.com aricle The NBA: Where Frugal Happens.

http://tinyurl.com/yjcveng

NBA Uses Twitter to Connect with Fans (http://tinyurl.com/yjcveng)

According to Biderman, teams are doing everything from selecting less-expensive half-time entertainment to using digital ticketing systems in order to cut costs.  One thing he did not mention, however, is that the  NBA is increasing its online presence, which is strengthening relationships with old fans and attracting new audiences.

“Sports teams have a really unique opportunity,” said marketing company R2integrated’s Matt Goddard, in a Forbes.com video: Rules of Engagement.  Instead of passively watching games, “now fans are participating.  The sporting world is starting to recognize the value in this, and starting to give their fans the opportunity to engage in different ways.”

To do just that, the NBA built an online empire over the past few seasons:  it completely revamped its own site to include more content available through different platforms such as video, statistical graphics, and blogs.  The league is also reaching out to fans through an increased presence on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter

On Twitter, for example, NBATV asks its 20,000 followers to pick the best fan tweets to be played on television during the game.  Likewise, nbastats uploads the latest game and player figures, and encourages fans to do the same.  On the team front, PhoenixSuns updates its followers on official news, but also sparks dialogue, by asking questions such as ‘Where are you watching the game?’

By engaging fans in this matter, teams are doing more than just chit-chatting; they are actually gaining an unprecedented amount of insight into the minds of their previously under-reached target market.  And – perhaps just as importantly – they are finding untapped revenues.

As Goddard suggested, the Phoenix Suns are perhaps the best example of a franchise with a profitable online presence.  One of the ways in which the team is connecting directly with fans is through its TV companion – a web site continually updated during games with stats, play-by-plays and video highlights. 

This is all information that the team gathered for years, but by now placing it on the web and by sharing it with fans, the Suns only stand to gain.  The Phoenix team is not only building better fan connections that will hopefully translate into higher ticket and merchandise sales, but it is also creating a new stream of revenue through online advertising.

As resources such as these increase in prevalence, the status of fans will continue to be elevated to new heights.

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