One of the drawbacks of being an American sports fan in Europe is the fact that you have to make choices which sports you want watch, especially since there will be something on all the time. I unfortunately made the choice not to watch Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals live, but you can be sure that I will watch the entire replay as soon as I can and probably many times after that. This season was about as good as it gets on the court, culminating in the city of Cleveland breaking a 52 year championship drought.
As the season comes to a close I feel like I was part of it, not only last night, but all season long. The NBA’s Digital presence is like no other. In April they became the first sports league to gain one million followers on Vine, in December they became the first organisation to surpass one billion loops on Vine. And when I say I feel like I was there, it was because every morning when I woke up I could go onto Vine and be sure that there would be a steady stream of monster dunks and other highlights available.
Now you could say that this would be the same for every sport, but the biggest league in the world, the National Football League (NFL) cracked down on social sharing, even successfully requesting to shut down popular media outlets such as SB Nation and Deadspin briefly on Twitter. This has its effect on the social following of the NFL. Even though their revenue is almost threefold of the NBA, they have a million followers less and not even a tenth of the loops of the NBA. The result is that the NBA has become more of a part of people’s lives on a daily basis than the NFL, even for those in Europe that don’t stay up until 06:00 to watch a game live.
This matches the NBA’s vision. During the 17th annual NBA All-Star Technological Summit the statement was made that “Less than 1% of NBA fans will experience an NBA game in person. We’ll explore how mobile technologies, VR and social media can make the rest feel more connected.” As part of that Facebook Live was used heavily during All-Star Weekend, but also Intel’s freeD replay technology. The NBA basically wants to improve the overall experience, no matter where you live and no matter what your disposable income is.
The NBA also digitised the way that they counted votes for the NBA All-Star Game. NBA fans could vote via the hashtag #NBAVote on social media channels such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Vine, and even Sina Weibo. They could also vote directly on NBA.com, via the NBA App, SMS, and by searching on Google. Voting is basically done based on how much Digital chatter there is, incentivising people to help the NBA increase their Digital presence. This has been seen to favour small market teams that always got lost in chatter due to the Lakers, Knicks, and the Bulls’ dominance in traditional media coverage.
Major League Soccer, the football league of the United States and Canada, has followed the NBA’s example and is regularly posting highlights. Because of it they have surpassed the NFL in the amount of loops, even though they only have 5% of the market share that the NFL has. And they’re not the only one. Major League Baseball is expected to hit the 1 billion loops in June. This combined with the fact that the NBA vowes to continue strong this “off-season” means that the NFL might have to play catch up or possibly lose part of their market share.
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