The NBA combats declines in television ratings with engagement. The basketball league suffered in November 2019 an 18 percent reduction in its television audience with respect to the previous year and, although the metric does not benefit the league, in return an increase in its popularity was predicted translated into the forms of consumption that characterize the new generations through highlights and monitoring of the players on social networks.
Of the four most popular North American leagues (NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL), basketball is the one with the largest number of followers on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and it also has accounts for Mexico, Latin America, Spain, France, Japan and China, which added to its association with global sponsors and the presence of more than 100 international basketball players, plays a significant role in its global expansion process. This popularity has implications for many things, one of which is how the NBA has become a very promising gambling commodity. Many casino bonus offers are given for NBA themed games.
The content that is presented on a traditional channel such as television offers coverage of the game or analysis of what happens on the field and is far from similar to that offered by social networks with highlights and daily coverage with viral or more intimate content of the celebrities off the court. It should be noted that the NBA does not apply restrictive policies when showing the personality of its players.
The trend moved to the Orlando bubble. The New York Times revealed that four basketball fans and content experts (Drew Ruiz, Travonne Edwards, Nick DePaula and Wells Phillips), created the Twitter and Instagram accounts XXXNBAbubbleLife and XXXWNBAbubbleLife which consists of curating videos about the daily life of the players inside the bubble. The accounts have become an audience success, with more than 125,000 followers on Twitter and around 20,000 on Instagram, while the WNBA accumulates almost 4,000 and 360 respectively.
In 2019, a study by the University of California explained that the NBA “has benefited from the visibility of its celebrities as a differentiating tactic. The players are extensions of their franchise, but they can also exist alone as ambassadors for the league, its brand and its values.
As the fandom continues to shift from full games’ to ‘IG highlights and stories,’ the relationship between leagues, media partners and social platforms is destined to evolve. This is a great combination of gaming and social media, giving both sides an edge.
A Nielsen study on the rethinking of sports from Generation Z indicated that, to connect and engage with this audience, sports media must use social and digital channels: with video streams, social networks, websites, apps, messaging, email, and podcasts as most popular with young people, as opposed to older generations.
While the NBA’s big revenue is in its television deals, leagues are tasked with continuing to experiment with digital partners on new ways to reach and monetize fans. It seems the trend has changed.