May 15, 2018 Jake Cohen

How advertisers are using branded content to reach NBA fans during the playoffs

Playoff season is in full swing and it’s the perfect opportunity for brands to capitalize on the increased excitement around basketball. With NBA viewership on the rise, and NBA social numbers outpacing that of other professional leagues, as Spring turns to Summer, basketball fans are looking to get their hands on as much content as they can about their favorite players and teams.

Over the course of the NBA season, Delmondo has monitored branded content across all NBA team and league properties as well as those for some of the marquee media partners that we work with. Included in this analysis was over 50 million branded video views and over 19 million branded engagements with basketball fans on social media on league and team-published content alone.

In this post, we’ll take a detailed look at a few examples of content that did an exceptional job of driving engagement and brand awareness with the target audience during the playoffs in particular. We’ll also showcase how these brands can utilize Delmondo’s analytics platform to better understand how their content performed in order to better educate future content creation decisions and advertising spend.

Mountain Dew Kickstart and Turner Sports

One successful example of a branded video content that occurred during the playoffs, was Mountain Dew Kickstart’s Rising Stars series on the Turner social platforms such as NBA on TNT.  In this series, former NBA star Baron Davis interviews the stars of tomorrow, to get their insights on life off of the court, their journey to the NBA and more.  It’s this type of quality content that resonates with fans, as it gives them exclusive access into the lives of their favorite athletes.  During the Philadelphia 76ers 1st Round series against the Miami Heat, NBA on TNT distributed their most recent episode, starring Philly’s All-Star Center and outspoken personality Joel Embid.  He discusses his love for the city of Philadelphia, how he learned the game of basketball and what type of person he is off the court.

Videos like this allow brands to associate themselves with the teams and players that fans feel so passionately about.  Delmondo can take this one step further, by not only measuring the post against standard metrics such as views, likes and comments, but also by taking a deeper dive into the demographics and performance of the post.  For instance, Mountain Dew Jumpstart is generally consumed and promoted towards a younger male demographic so a brand wants to know that is who is actually seeing the video.

Going a step further, Delmondo is also able to dissect the performance of the content, by seeing what fans tune out during a video and when, whether they listened to the video with sound on or off and what percentage of fans completed the entire video. This information is critical in understanding why certain content worked well compared to others and allows content creators to replicate the characteristics that led to successful social posts.

JetBlue and the Boston Celtics

No team in the NBA is hotter than the Boston Celtics right now.  This success has allowed the team to translate winning on the court, to winning off the court, through the development of integrated content, which is amplified through the increased traffic.  Playoffs allow social and digital teams across the league to introduce new inventory and present opportunities for partners to capitalize on the increased interest that fans are showing towards the teams’ digital platforms.

Last week, in the middle of the Celtics series with the Philadelphia 76ers, the team introduced a co-branded Celtics plane with the team’s official airline JetBlue.  The announcement was one of the most engaged with tweets throughout the entire playoffs on the Celtics’ channels, with over 4.4K likes and over 800 retweets.

To build on the momentum from the tweet just 3 hours prior, the team posted another JetBlue sponsored post, utilizing the hashtag #JetBlueRunway to showcase players’ style coming off the plane as they arrived in Philadelphia.  This was another successful post, as it was not only on brand for JetBlue and the Celtics, but it included individual players and exclusive access that fans typically wouldn’t receive.

Out of all the Pro Sports Leagues, no other league embraces fashion and style like the NBA, and this was an authentic way for JetBlue to demonstrate that they share fans’ passion for the team by organically inserting themselves into the conversation as the team boarded the plane for their upcoming road game, turning the airport runway into a Fashion show runway. By doing so, the content becomes more attractive to fans and successfully builds brand affinity for JetBlue with the Celtics fanbase.

Kia Motors and the NBA

From a league perspective, branded content is done on a much larger scale, but many of the same principles exist.  One of the most attractive qualities that the NBA possesses in the eyes of potential corporate sponsors, is their vast social following.  With over 28 million Instagram followers, over 27 million Twitter followers and over 35 million fans on Facebook, the NBA allows partners to reach an incredible amount of people and an avid fanbase in a quick period of time.  For this reason, NBA sponsors dole out in the 8 and 9 figures to be able to affiliate their brand with the league.

During the playoffs, one partner who has successfully inserted themselves into the playoff conversation is Kia Motors.  Prior to certain games throughout the playoffs, the NBA distributes “Who Ya Got?” posts on their various social channels, encouraging fans to discuss the upcoming game and their thoughts on who will win.

The engagement across all channels and all games has been tremendous — Delmondo measured more than 4 Million engagements for their WHO YA GOT? sponsored playoff posts, with some of the best performing posts generating more than 500,000 engagements on Instagram.

Within the posts, Kia promotes their #KiaWhoYaGot sweepstakes, which provides fans the opportunity to potentially win tickets to an upcoming NBA Finals game.  The reason posts like this work so well, is that they are beneficial for all parties involved.  Fans get the opportunity to engage with the NBA community and debate what they believe in, while receiving the chance of winning tickets to an NBA Finals game.  The league gets to highlight multiple players and teams to their millions of fans, while driving viewership to the broadcast through tune-in information on the graphic. And finally, Kia gets to enter the conversation in an unforced manner, building brand awareness and affinity with the NBA’s passionate fanbase.

Conclusion

When you tap into rabid fanbases and trusted partners, you can make playoff magic as a brand. These examples demonstrate how just a few of the many NBA teams and sponsors are able to capitalize on the popularity of the NBA through the development of branded content.

Delmondo is able to analyze the performance of this content to enable teams and leagues to become more educated on their fanbase, allowing them to better monetize their inventory, while also ensuring that brands are maximizing the return on their revenue dollars.  So keep an eye out for more engaging pieces and research around how sports teams and league sponsors create branded content in the coming weeks.

Enjoy the rest of the playoffs!

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