How the NBA teamed up with Twitter to celebrate the league’s return.
Ball is life for #NBATwitter, so when the season paused in March, there was a massive longing for the games, players, and teams that define the world of basketball.
#NBATwitter has always been a vibrant community — and it’s growing. In the past year alone, there have been 204 million Tweets about the @NBA, with more people than ever participating in the conversation.1 And while the basketball chatter continued during the league’s hiatus, there were more Tweets about “missing the @NBA” than Tweets about missing other favorite and paused activities — 14X more than missing “nightlife” and 5X more than missing “travel.”2 So when the league finally returned in late July, the @NBA looked to Twitter as its sole social partner for the assist.
Bringing fans inside the bubble
Getting back in the game this year was anything but conventional. The league returned without any fans in the stands, and players stayed socially distanced with all games played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando.
To bring fans closer to the game, the @NBA teamed up with Twitter to bring the best of #NBATwitter courtside in a first-of-its-kind way — a good call on the league’s part, since according to a recent study, 86% of NBA fans on Twitter agree that Twitter helps make up part of what's missing from attending games in person or watching in bars with friends.3 @TwitterSports kicked things off with a call to action and video, asking fans to submit their Tweets with the hashtag #NBATwitter. The lucky fans whose Tweets were selected would see them show up during the warmups and halftimes of the @utahjazz vs. @PelicansNBA and @LAClippers vs. @Lakers games.
From thousands of Tweets, 20 were selected to elevate the #NBATwitter conversation, ranging from the playful to the powerful, and projected on massive digital displays within the arena and throughout the opening night games.
Needless to say, the crowd went wild. Even some famous fans got in on the action.
To generate even more excitement for the NBA’s return, the league Tweeted another surprise for fans: A Branded Like accompanied any Tweet with the hashtag #WholeNewGame, turning the heart into a little dribbling basketball.
The fun animation was a welcome surprise to fans.
The virtual reopening weekend was a huge win, with the @NBA seeing a 73% increase in Tweet volume compared to the 2019 Christmas games, when the league typically sees the most conversation.4 During the opening day game (@LAClippers vs. @Lakers), Twitter had the most views per video among all competitive platforms.5 And @NBA received 6.1 million video views, 28.5 million impressions, and 528,000 engagements during opening weekend, exceeding engagement with content posted during regular season tip-off in October 2019.6
Although basketball’s biggest fans couldn’t watch their favorite teams from inside the stadium, the @NBA’s reimagined fan experience helped people feel like they were still an important part of the big cultural moment. Even though they can’t be courtside, sports’ most passionate fans are ready to get back in the game.
Kelsey Taylor (@kelseyerin) is part of the Sports Global Content Partnerships team, managing Twitter’s strategic partnerships with sports leagues and media partners to bring the most premium sports content to the platform and drive sales revenue.
1. Twitter Internal Data (Semantic Core). US Only. Time Frame: Sept 1, 2019 - Sept 1, 2020. Data retrieved Sept 2020.
2. Twitter Internal
3. Sparkler, commissioned by Twitter, Twitter as a Stadium Survey, August 2020, USA.
4. Twitter Internal Data (Semantic Core). US only. 12/25/19 - 12/28/19 vs. 7/30/20 - 8/2/20. Data retrieved 8/3/20.
5. Tubular Video Insights, videos from 7/30/20, Global.
6. Twitter Internal. Time Frame: 7/30/20