From Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications VOL. 5 NO. 1
Big Apple Kickoff vs. Tipoff: A Twitter Analysis
One aspect of the Nets Twitter page that stood out over the Knicks as well as the NFL teams was the in-game tweets. The Nets produced 42 tweets in the opening tip-off game alone. The tweets were not only numerical, but they provided context to what was happening in the game from observations of players to detailed descriptions of plays that occurred. The Nets also tweeted statistics and plays performed by both teams. Whenever a player is mentioned, they directly mention him in the tweet as seen in Figure 5.
Another characteristic of the game updates given by the Nets Twitter page is the use of #NETSonYES. YES Network is the official network of the New York Yankees and the Nets. YES Network tweets regarding broadcast times were retweeted by the team as well.
Figure 4. NBA Analysis: Number of tweets by team and category
Figure 5. Example of Promotional Tweet
The Nets made it a priority to give fans behind the scenes access to the team. One way they did this is by showing the Nets players getting involved with the community the week before the first tip-off. By using #BrooklynNetsAssist, fans could track the whereabouts of Nets players during several different events. Also, numerous photos and notes from practice were tweeted. The Nets organization gave the fans an exclusive discount at the merchandise store as an incentive to follow the team on Twitter and visit the merchandise store. Photo galleries from community service and practice were also posted on the team’s website.
The New York Knicks had very similar content as the Nets; however, there were some differences. The biggest difference between the two is that the Knick Public Relations has its own Twitter account. This account is more focused on life surrounding the Knicks and not what was going on inside the organization. The official Twitter page of the Knicks devoted a large portion of tweets to player involvement. Instagram videos of players answering a question were posted every day along with photos from practice. More behind-thescenes coverage included photos from within the team’s huddle before the game and the locker room. A large percentage of the player involvement tweets were from the Knicks community service. Children of all ages were joined by the Knicks players to play arcade games and have fun inside Madison Square Garden. All photos from the event included a player and a several kids.
The Knicks used their players by having them do several meet-and-greets with fans during this week. These events took place at Footlocker, a sponsor and retailer of the Knicks, and at the official merchandise store located inside Madison Square Garden, the arena of the Knicks. This is directly related with the Knicks preseason campaign #KnicksinOrange as pictured in Figure 6.
The Knicks made the new jerseys a lead # on their page the entire offseason. They featured the first official photoshoot in the jerseys, player commentary on the jerseys, and photos of new fans purchasing the jerseys.
The in-game tweets produced by the Knicks were detailed accounts of scoring plays by Knicks players. One feature unique to the Knicks was the Twitter page that directly mentioned different celebrities that entered Madison Square Garden. It would be easy to see celebrities enter the court because of the close quarters of a basketball court. Plus this promotes the idea that the Knicks are the “celebrities team.”
According to this analysis of the New York teams, the two NBA teams used Twitter more than the two NFL teams. However, their social media strategies were not different from each other. One category would dominate the other, but there was compensation in other places. The Jets with 96 total tweets had only a few more than the Giants’ 87, whereas the two NBA teams had exactly the same number of tweets during the week of research observation, 187.
There could be several reasons that the NBA had double the number of tweets the NFL did. As America’s most popular sport, the NFL has a passionate fan base that has been around for a long time (Vogan, 274). The NFL has a very tight grasp on the league as a whole.
“The league has worked to construct its significance by obsessively controlling and aggressively circulating its image through a multiplatform array or marketing strategies and brand extensions . . . ” (Vogan, 274)
With this type of control, it is difficult and unnecessary for NFL teams to promote the sport itself, since it receives so much attention already. That makes the main job of the teams themselves cater to their loyal fan base. This explains why there is an emphasis on information regarding the team as well as getting fans engaged with their team.
The findings of this research can be added to prior sport communication research because of its emphasis on the rise in social media. One issue the NBA in particular was having with social media was a lack of an overarching social media plan (Wysocki 2012).
Even though each team did use kickoff hashtags, there were no obvious patterns of when kickoff items were posted, aside from the fact that they were done so on most days. The teams did not send out promotional posts every day. The analysis conducted in this research found that the NBA teams implemented what Wysocki (2012) regarded as best practices in using tweets: in-arena presence, connecting with fans outside the arena, social media campaigns, and most importantly quality content.
Since the NBA is not the most popular sport in the country, the teams have to have a greater social media presence to attract spectators to their team. In New York, there is now the battle between the Knicks in the city and the Nets in the boroughs. The two teams separate themselves with different strategies that emphasize the players they keep. Also, the NBA has established the league as a hip professional sport. This is partially because of the players playing in the league. A majority of the players sport lavish clothes and jewelry complemented by black ink tattoos. The entire league as a whole directly affects the social media strategies by the teams. If the NFL adopted some of the strategies the NBA implemented during their season, the league could gain a new demographic of fans.
Future research could extend the duration of the analysis longer than one week. Future scholars may apply the best practices Wysocki constructed to the NFL to see the comparison between the two leagues. Another study could explore different leagues using the same coding system that this study used. Lastly, research regarding fan demographics could explain the reasons the NBA is more active on social media, which was not answered by this study.
The author would like to extend a special thanks to Professor Glenn Scott at Elon University for his guidance, inspiration and advice, all of which the article could not be published.
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