For NBA Playoffs, Turner Sports Pulls Social-Media Full-Court Press

By Carolyn Braff

For the 2009 NBA Playoffs, Turner Sports is making a stir with social media, bringing new content to its digitally inclined fan base on any — and every — platform fans choose.

Turner Sports has chosen a multiplatform social-network marketing strategy for its 40 Games in 40 Nights coverage. Using Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, Turner Sports hopes to reach fans during those 40 nights, as well as the 40 days that precede them, by offering new-media content in established new-media places.

“We want to utilize social-media platforms that are connecting and engaging fans on a daily basis,” explains Jenny Storms, SVP of marketing for Turner Sports. “Everybody is different. Fans use Facebook in different ways, or they’re using Twitter, or they tend to be YouTube fans, so we’re just trying to target our fans where they are, and we’ve found that they are on all of these platforms.”

Over the next week, Turner Sports will make a particular push across Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, with additional promotions on Yahoo! Sports. On Sunday April 19, TNT NBA Playoffs messages will be found all over Facebook through sponsored ads, topical promotion spots, and easy-access ways for users to ‘Become a Fan’ of the NBA on the TNT Facebook page.

For the non-Facebook set, Turner Sports will also take over the Yahoo! Sports main page on April 19, pumping across ads featuring TNT NBA Playoffs coverage.

“With social networking,” Storms says,” we’re looking for two things: daily contact and that personal investment and engagement with the fan. We’re not marketing at the fan on Facebook or Twitter per se. We’re really just trying to connect with them, give them information, and give them control of that information within our brand. We want them to be able to really connect with us in the way that they most want to on those platforms.”

Turner Sports’ takeover of the YouTube homepage on Monday April 20 is a particularly well-suited marriage between the fans and their platform of choice. As part of a TNT masthead that will run on the YouTube home page, Turner Sports created a series of customized videos. Scrolling over each player on the masthead reveals a different video of that player. The creative will promote that night’s matchups and feature TNT messaged overlays on sports-related feature videos. Rather than attempt to attract YouTube fans to other video sites, the idea behind the promotion is to cater to the NBA fans who already frequent YouTube and bring the video content they’re looking for into the place they already visit.

“We’re really excited because the YouTube opportunity goes beyond just hi, here’s an ad banner,” Storms says. “It’s a really fun, interactive banner that’s relevant to YouTube. You’re coming to YouTube for video, so we’re giving you this masthead banner that gives you video that you can’t get anywhere else.”

TNT and NBA TV announcers will also be using Twitter, producing content that fans will be able to find in multiple places. Chris Webber, Gary Payton, Steve Smith, Eric Snow, Rick Kamla, and others will write updates, comments, thoughts, and analysis on their individual Twitter pages beginning April 14, and those pages will feed into a main NBA TV Twitter profile, the NBA’s Twitter page, and the NBA on TNT Facebook page. TNT and NBA TV will also promote the Facebook and Twitter presence on air.

“Part of the Twitter beauty is that it’s definitely not a marketing or sell message,” Storms explains. “This is a personal-engagement platform for the talent to have with fans. We’re letting them utilize it the way they want to express themselves. We’re not writing content for them. We think it’s going to be really interesting inside access for fans to have on a very consistent basis.”

NBA Digital has spent the past few years building up its cross-platform presence, but bringing talent into the world of Twitter has been a new experience for everyone. For several announcers, setting up their own Twitter page was the first contact they have had with the real-time updates platform, so how exactly the talent will use their pages will be a surprise to the network and fans alike.

“The guys working on NBA TV are used to a lot of the digital access, behind-the-scenes, personal-connection type of media,” Storms explains. “Our fan group is predominantly made up of a younger demographic, the people that are on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, so that is why this social mix of media is important and why the mix will be successful. I expect us to have great success because this is a fan base that will react and embrace the content on these platforms.”