Yes, I am an OKC Thunder Fan. I’ve followed Kevin Durant’s journey since his days at the University of Texas, and remain a fan until this day. Although my bias skews in favor of my team, this blog won't be about last week’s game, the MVP race or the finals. Rather, I hope to examine the Oklahoma City Thunder (OKC) brand and how it serves its online community.
First, consider these questions: What strategies do sports teams, more specifically, NBA teams, have to employ to be successful in marketing, branding and public relations? What about social media and community engagement? Real-time stats and updates are fundamental in sports reporting—information is in high demand, especially to fans devoted to their team—but what about brand presence outside the game? This is where we shine a spotlight on the Thunder.
Upon visiting the official OKC website, an overwhelming amount of information fills your screen. Schedules, video, stats and promotions are squeezed into most of the available space on the homepage. This website is a global resource for all things OKC. The goal of the Thunder’s digital marketing strategy is to use this information to its advantage by disseminating the right content through the right platform. Once published, the team’s dedicated fanbase will take care of the rest—through engagement and sharing.
The revenue and reputation of an NBA team relies not only on its ability to win games, but also on its fanbase. Remember, in online marketing, customer advocacy is vital to the success of any business that wants to positively grow its reach. Reviews and comments have a profound effect on those who read them. What brand advocacy could be better than a fandom passionate about its team?
Nurturing a global fanbase is no easy task, but the OKC digital marketing team does it exceptionally well with:
The team’s official website serves as a portal for separate entities within the Thunder organization. Its dance team, the Thunder Girls; its mascot Rumble the Bison; and the Tulsa 66ers, its D-league team, all have a distinct website umbrellaed by the Thunder brand, therefore playing a supplemental role in the team’s overall strategy—no different from a company that represents several minor brands or products. Each of these sub-brands must leverage the Thunder’s name for exposure.
These web features are applicable, and ideal, to most content strategies—even beyond sports. What really matters is your relationship with your audience.
The inspiration for this blog grew from a curiosity: How do NBA teams use social media? As a Thunder fan, I follow the team’s most popular channels (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) and can confidently say I stay informed with team happenings—even with content saturation effecting everybody’s reach. How? The Thunder’s social campaign knows only to publish content its audience cares about.
For example, take a look at these easy-to-read infographics loaded with stats and information, yet still catering to design aesthetics. Creative data visualization is an effective, economic way to tell a story, and customers and fans like stories.
Not to mention real-time Twitter updates and hashtag establishment (like most professional sport teams already do).
Don’t forget about Pinterest. It’s one of the top social networks known for referral traffic, the perfect place to feature merchandise.Follow OKC Thunder's board Thunder Stuff on Pinterest.
One aspect of the Thunder’s social strategy that stood out to me as a writer and an online publisher was 411, the OKC’s blog. By now, we should recognize a blog as a major part of any social strategy. It’s where brands, big and small, can publish native content and then push that content to feed your social channels. But, OKC isn’t content starved, just look at its homepage! The Thunder reserves its blog to serve another purpose: connecting with it’s community. 411 is a social platform intended to tell—and control—the Thunder story off the court. Take a look at some the articles posted in 411. How could an NBA team focus on something other than basketball? The answer: to further strengthen its relationship with its fanbase (its revenue source). Companies that invest in an active blog are making a commitment to connect with their community.
As mentioned above, being a fan of a sports team is a lot like being an enthusiastic brand advocate. If you’re a social media admin, brand advocates are your greatest source of user-generated content. Transparent, reciprocal engagement with these folks, your fans, is instrumental in building a legitimate bond with your following, adding value to the social experience.
Major sport teams like the Thunder have thousands of fans all over the world who use social media to congregate and share. The individual players on the team, the coach, the colors, the mascot and the community all make up the OKC Thunder brand. A company selling a product or service other than NBA entertainment (most of us) must seek out its community, highlight its strengths and aspire to create fans of its own. Content marketing is how you do it.
Not all NBA teams are created equal. Most teams are focused around key superstars while others may suffer multiple losses. Still, all have dedicated fans. The point is, it doesn’t matter if you're a big time team or struggling brand, it’s how we, as marketers, use the social tools at our disposal to connect with our target audience (our potential fans). Take some content marketing advice from the NBA and you’ll be just fine.
What do you think? Should companies adopt an NBA attitude toward social engagement? In terms of marketing, what teams stand out to you? Share your thoughts!
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