Winning Strategy: How NBA Teams Can Successfully Leverage “NBA Twitter”

By: Tom Bridger

If you’re like me, you use social media to keep up with your favorite athletes, teams, and the nightly gold mine that is “NBA Twitter”. The Washington Post recently summarized NBA Twitter in an incredibly apt description: “A sports bar that doesn’t close, where the stars pull up a seat next to you”. The phenomena that is NBA Twitter was mentioned in an earlier blog post, but I want to dive into how teams are leveraging the success of NBA Twitter to elevate their own brands.

The NBA is the most tweeted about sports league, with more than 100 million tweets per year. More and more, fans have one eye on the game, and the other on their smartphones, constantly refreshing for new content. You simply cannot miss a day of NBA Twitter, where there might be a new feud, teams trolling one another, or an NBA player finally taking the bait and responding to a fan. NBA teams Twitter channels need to do more than just show highlights or tweet about game scores, they need to embody the brands desired voice.

NBA teams that have done the best job on Twitter are those that are leveraging the established brand of “NBA Twitter”, while also including their own authentic voice. Below I have outline three teams that do a particularly good job of leveraging their brand on Twitter, as well as the reasons why.

The Portland Trailblazers, Twitter following: 1.2m

Far from the largest Twitter following in the NBA, the Trailblazers do an impressive job of elevating their brand through their Twitter feed. They have the largest engagement stats of any team, and maintain a brand voice that is oh so Oregon: genuine, cheeky, weird, and fun. They are on point with their created content, whether that be funny memes/gifs, poking fun at other teams, or even wallowing in their own misfortune as seen below. Twitter allows them to speak with an authentic voice, giving the fans the feeling that they are a living, breathing brand.

The Golden State Warriors, Twitter following: 6m

Having won three of the last four NBA championships certainly helps a brand, but the Warriors aren’t resting on their laurels. As the team with the highest digital revenue generation, the Warriors used analytics and research to discover where their fans were (a shocking 11m of their Facebook fans were from the Philippines), and how to create valuable content for them. Through better understanding their fans, they are able to leverage valuable partnerships with brands that share the same audiences and values, while remaining authentic. It will be interesting to see if their social media success will continue after their current dynasty has ended…

The Toronto Raptors, Twitter following: 1.8m

My beloved Toronto Raptors (I am a token Canadian at UO) leverage social media to appeal to their diverse fans across the entire country of Canada. What the Raptors do particularly well is their ability to mimic the wildly popular brand voice of NBA Twitter – funny, cheeky, challenging, daring, and fun. Whether its congratulating their just recently coach for winning coach of the year, or poking fun at another teams tweets (image below), the Raptors mirror the light hearted nature of NBA Twitter, making them digestible and relatable to any NBA fan.

Ultimately, it is at the discretion of each teams’ social media management to decide how their team is going to portray itself on Twitter. But to not take advantage of the medium to enhance their brand is a lost opportunity. Although the NBA had to step in to quiet some of the trash talking happening among teams… NBA Twitter still provides a platform for brands to flourish with creativity, authenticity, and fan engagement.

Twitter: @tommybieman

IG: tommybieman

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/thomas-bridger/

This Article Has 12 Comments
  1. Colton Schang says:

    Tom, you know I have to comment on this very well written piece on NBA Twitter. I think it’s awesome how some teams have really leveraged Twitter specifically to bring an authentic voice to their organization. The Blazers are a great example of personifying what the city is really like through a digital voice. It really captures the city. I think it would be interesting to audit other social platforms around the NBA to see which teams are creating different content, platform to platform. I know for my Jazzies, their Instagram feels like an amplification of the player’s best plays and things they are up to. The savvy teams will use social as a way to connect with the fans, while the laggards will continue to be a copy of the NBA’s branded channels.

  2. Ian Burleigh says:

    Tom – Like Colton, I find myself completely compelled to comment on this captivating piece of NBA Twitter analysis. I especially enjoy when teams poke fun at themselves, or troll other teams. It’s amazing the amount of times that one team will seemingly just toss up an alley-oop for another team to take full advantage of. My Pistons generally fall into the category of being incredibly boring, both on the court and on social media. Maybe not-so-surprisingly, the fanbase has faltered significantly from the glory days of the early 2000’s. To me, savvy social media use seems to be an incredible opportunity for teams to grow and engage a fanbase, regardless of their product of the court. NBA Twitter is an incredibly fun, complementary experience to the games themselves and I’ll be interested to see how the NBA continues to push the envelope while other leagues/teams attempt to play catch up and copy cat.

  3. Ryan Robledo says:

    I thought this was extremely interesting because I wasn’t aware that the NBA is “the most tweeted about sports league.” Working with the Trail Blazers have taught me that they really do have a huge engagement rate but I was not aware that they had the largest engagement stats in the NBA. The different ways that NBA teams interact with their fans is very interesting because all teams have their own unique voice.

  4. Jason Tseng says:

    This is very interesting to see each team of the NBA use their tweeter very well. Moreover, it can also see the different team have their own personality to their tweeter. We can see the huge engagement of NBA team on their tweeter. It is also interesting to see you use Golden state as an example because they definitely are the top team in the league. And when I see their tweeter like use analytics and research to discover where their fans were and create valuable content for their fan, it really surprises me. They really know how to use the tweeter to bring all of the fans from different places together.

  5. Laura Groshans says:

    I love this post. I think the side by side comparison of the different teams social media efforts paints the picture well. I HAD to comment when I saw that you profiled The Warriors. Fergie sang the national anthem at one of their games and players were seen laughing to themselves during the song. I’m sure you can imagine the firestorm that ensued online. The players came back with their own remix of the Fergie’s anthem. You should definitely watch it! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6iGI0tNlrds

  6. Austin Banks says:

    Tom, I found this super interesting being a big NBA fan. In my personal experience I have noticed that there is a lot of engagement with NBA twitter compared to other professional sports teams. It’s really a interesting topic to view the different ways NBA teams interact and engage with fans on social media with the use of trends and unique authenticity. It appears NBA teams have taken complete advantage of social media which has helped develop a larger fan base, other professional sports teams should follow the NBA’s lead and be more engaging.

  7. Matthew McGonegal says:

    Tom, thank you for this well-written and interesting commentary on NBA Twitter. I’ve always thought that one of the best aspects of the NBA is its fans. From including Dwayne Wade and Dirk Nowitzki in the All-Star Game to tweeting at fans from team Twitter accounts, the association seems to care a great deal about engaging with fans beyond the game. NBA Twitter has grown to be a great source of entertainment that really adds to the experience and is a major reason why the NBA engages with more fans than the NFL.

  8. Kierstyn Yardley says:

    Hi Tom!

    I really enjoyed reading this post because I’m a huge NBA fan as well. By using the different examples of sports teams, it showed how many different ways teams can be creative on Twitter. I’ve noticed on Twitter how popular the NBA is and how teams interact with their fans. Each team has a unique way of reaching their target audience and Twitter creates a space for NBA players to engage with their fans. I’ve seen more tweets about the NBA than an other sports franchise because of the involvement the NBA has to make it so intriguing.

  9. Natalie says:

    Hi Tom,

    This is an interesting topic that I did not know much about before reading your blog post. I thoroughly enjoyed your enthusiasm about NBA Twitter. It is amazing to acknowledge how much of a shift Twitter has made in the past few years, and the way that brands take advantage of this new engagement tool. I especially enjoyed the way you described the Portland Trail Blazers, as I am someone from Portland who also enjoys following to read their hilarious tweets and quote tweets. I think it would be especially interesting to see which age demographics are engaging the most with these NBA teams, only because I can’t help but think of my Dad reading through the Trail Blazer’s Twitter feed being utterly confused!

    Thanks for sharing,
    Natalie

  10. Amador Nazarov says:

    I’ve always loved how interactive the NBA team accounts on Twitter are! It’s almost like they are a whole new voice given to the franchise. As a big Warriors fan, I always see comments from fans on their Tweets about how their old social media content creator “wouldn’t have said this.” I would have never known that they hired on a new content creator. People really take their team’s tweets seriously.

  11. Yichi Zhang says:

    Hi Tom, I really like this topic. As a huge NBA fan, I followed many NBA team twitter account. I can see how these twitter account bring their fans closer to the team and provide a great opportunities for them to interact. Different team’s twitter has different style on social media, and I believe this is a good way for NBA to promote their brand by creating more topics from their teams on social media. I can learn more about team culture and players’ habit from them twitter, and that’s a really good way for fans get engaged the league.

  12. Julianna Bourjeaurd says:

    Hi Tom,

    I too am a “token Canadian” at UO! For me personally, I love following the Canadian social media accounts that relate to hockey culture and also Spittin’ Chiclets. I think these are such good outlets in terms of growing a league’s or franchise’s following and I wish the NAHL and other small leagues would adopt the same type of entertaining banter that the NBA does. If its too focused on the game itself and statistics, you’ll drive the lesser die-hard fans away because it’s less appealing to them, but having the comical content is something for all fans to enjoy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *