NBA Moves The Digital Needle With Twitter Around #NBAAllStarTO

Courtesy of FORBES:

The NBA is not shy when thinking creatively about how to move the digital needle.

The latest examples came this past weekend around the 2016 NBA All-Star festivities in Toronto.

Arguably the most forward-thinking U.S. professional sports league, the NBA recently collaborated with the Twitter TWTR +5.56% Sports group to launch Twitter emojis for all 24 All-Stars, a first for any All-Star Game.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, who is dubbed ‘The Black Mamba,’ had a snake as his emoji while Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James possessed a crown with a ‘C’ in the center.

“In terms of embracing new ideas and prioritizing around big events, the NBA will always walk the walk and as long as it’s strategically positioned to bring fans closer to the game, then they’ll work with us to make it happen,” said Andrew Barge, Sports Partnerships Manager at Twitter. Turner Sports revealed the players’ emojis last Thursday night on TNT, with the broadcast crew unveiling its own array of emojis to fit the group’s unique personalities.

“Even Charles Barkley, who isn’t on Twitter himself, was hilarious on air reacting to this and his willingness to have fun with his (doughnut emoji) was awesome to see,” said Barge of the release.

According to Twitter, global tweets about #NBAAllStarTO were seen 1.7 billion times on Twitter and offline (2/12 – 2/14), including 1.7 million tweets with NBA All-Star and at least one of Turner’s emojis in the same tweet.

Emojis have been a cornerstone of Twitter’s engagement strategy around big sporting events in 2016 and the past NBA All-Star Weekend was no different. Additionally, for the first time in NBA All-Star Game history, MVP voting was partially determined by fans tweeting a player’s hashtagged first and last name in addition to #KiaAllStarMVP, with three of the nine MVP votes coming via Twitter.

As the NBA explained, Bryant received two Twitter fan votes, and Golden St. Warriors guard Stephen Curry grabbed the third.

“The NBA and Turner really recognized Twitter as a real-time complement to the live TV experience,” said Barge of the Twitter-MVP voting integration. “…We saw a great opportunity to inject a previously successful product into the live-voting mechanism, and it was a seamless, well-executed integration across the entire broadcast.”

In partnership with Twitter, the league also leveraged its Vine account, which just became the first non-Vine star to surpass one billion loops on the platform. The second iteration of the #KicksCam saw players like James, the Indiana Pacers Paul George and Houston Rockets James Harden stepping up to the stage and giving fans a close-up of their sneakers.