7 Strong Social Plays During the NBA Finals

The NBA is one of the most innovative digital and social leagues, so it’s no surprise that the digital and social coverage has been top notch. From embracing technology to a focus on original content, the league, teams and other outlets nailed their coverage of the NBA Finals. Below are seven strong plays worth noting:


Sharp Graphics

Strong visual content is key to social now. Not only are people visual by nature, but it helps your content stand out from the crowd. The NBA, Cavs and Warriors had strong visual content throughout the NBA Final

The Warriors and Cavs defined a consistent look and feel, while the NBA mixed up their creative. I like the approaches respectively. For teams, there’s something to be said about strong, consistent branding. For the NBA, since they cover so many teams and games, it’s interesting to see different creative elements throughout the season.

Here are some of the highlights:

As a bonus, I also like how the NBA crowdsourced designs using #NBAart to give fans a chance to be featured on their Instagram and on @NBATV broadcast. There are so many creative fans out there. Not only does this leverage their creativity, but it build community and loyalty by getting your fans engaged. Below are some of the amazing UGC submissions they used.


Messenger Experimentation

There has been a lot of talk in our industry about bots. Thanks to the rise of messenger apps and the need for a personalized experience industry leaders are leaning to chatbots as the future, Here’s a good read on chatbots if you’re interested.

The NBA capitalized on this trend by launching a chatbot on Messenger. The bot delivered fans instant highlights during the NBA Finals. The process to set it up was easy and seamless, and I was pushed wonderful highlights at the end of each game.


While there are limitations to what the chatbot delivers, I applaud the NBA for being on the forefront. All the data points to a strong rise in messaging and chatbots. And for a league that has built so much equity in their online and digital presence, it makes sense that they would be on the forefront. Brands that fall behind the curve risk being cut out of the conversation. The NBA won’t be one of those brands.


Snapchat Geofilters

Snapchat has been on the rise for awhile now, recently reaching 150 million daily users. And while teams, leagues and brands are going all in on it, there is one thing all of us as marketers should note: this platform is a lot different than others. It’s not about the push. The power on the platform is in empowering OTHERS to share brand love.

Snapchat gives teams, leagues and brands the opportunities to empower others to share brand love through their geofilters and lenses. And there were some strong, creative ones during the NBA Finals.

As you continue to build out your Snapchat presence, it’s worth investing heavily in geofilters around games and events. Be creative, have fun with it and empower your fans.


Smart Messaging to Fans

The Warriors did a good job of messaging to their fans. The content saluted Dub Nation and created an emotional, FOMO-like effect, whether it was their hype videos or their ticket promos.

When you directly speak to fans, it makes the content more personal and emotional. And, content that resonates emotionally is more likely to be shared. Don’t just push messages to your fans; speak to them directly and personally. It’s not about a push, but about pulling them in.


3-Second Ads

@UABasketball created three second ads for every three pointer Curry made during the playoffs. And, before you call me biased, let me state that I DO NOT work on the basketball business at UA. I’m extremely proud of the place I work, but I try to stay away from our own work… this one deserves a nod though.

There’s power in simplicity. The concept of three second ads for three pointers is simple, but that’s why it’s brilliant. UA Hoops doesn’t have to be everything to everyone during the finals; instead, they can offer their unique value. It’s an easy concept to grasp and the content is entertaining and humorous.

The lesson here is that the best ideas are often simple ideas. If you can’t communicate your big idea in 60 seconds, then you probably need to focus and hone in more. You can read more about the three-second ad activation here.


Bleacher Report’s Original Content

In the crowded social media and sports space, it’s hard to stand out from the noise. The key in doing so is creating your own, unique point of view and Bleacher Report has done just that. Throughout the finals and playoffs, Bleacher Report killed it with their own, branded content. They tap into humor, pop culture, drama and the sentiment of the internet. Their content not only performs well, but if often beats out the likes of media competitors, the league and teams. Here are a few highlights:

The approach Bleacher Report takes to content might not be right for your brand or team, but it’s an important lesson in defining your point of view. What’s your purpose for your fans online? It’s time to give some serious consideration to it if you want to stand out from all the noise. Read more about defining a POV here.



During the NBA Finals, Twitter partnered with the NBA and Samsung for 360-degree video deal. Twitter cards linked out to videos shot with 360-degree cameras, allowing users to click and drag around the scene. Read more about it here.

While I wish users were not driven away from the platform, I love the immersive experience and how intuitive it is to mobile. As technology improves, fans expectations are going to continue to grow around the experience we provide through digital. Part of that expectation will be a more immersive experience, and this is a great example of how it can be delivered.



What stood out to you from a social and digital perspective with the NBA Finals this year? Share your thoughts below.

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