NBA: League of the Fan

Pulsating crowds. Deafening cheers. Fan controlled cameras. What do these three things have in common? The out-of-this-world experience at an NBA Playoffs game in the Moda Center.

This year on the court has been one for the record books. Not only did the Portland Trail Blazers blow season predictions out of the water, the fanbase behind the Blazers had never seen the engagement level that filled the arena this season.

How? They embraced innovative fan engagement technology. Throughout every playoff game, fans had access to Brizi’s Rip City FanCam, where they could live-control a fan cam mounted on the Jumbotron and call it over to their seats.

Eight cameras were set up on in the Moda Center, giving every fan their own unique perspective. When they entered their seat location they were able to access one camera for up to 30 seconds, changing the pan, tilt, and zoom to produce their story!

Fans didn’t have to download an app or create a  profile, they just typed in the url. Without having to use an app, the process was streamlined and kept every fan engaged.

There was no shortage of access points, everywhere from the Blazer’s app to the game day program encouraged fans to try out the platform and share their story. Even the Blazer Dancers got in on the action!

Once fans started using the FanCam, they were hooked, 21% of them took 3 photos or more. All this usage created a social contagion as fans in the area got curious and asked how to use it. Not only did it spread through the stadium like wildfire, it also exploded on social. Celebrities started to jump on the bandwagon and get active, boosting engagement even further.

This type of social activity is great for brands. They are able to place a branded overlay on each picture, generating an authentic connection with fans. This is far more valuable than a sponsored social media post because the message is not being pushed onto consumers. This message is coming from the consumer’s friend or relative, making it an endorsement instead of an advertisement. This means consumers are more likely to engage with the brand because they don’t feel like they are being “sold to” on their private social space.

With all this social activity over 5 games, a very interesting trend became apparent. The social content had a lifetime of roughly 12 hours, which tells us that the content is only valuable in real time; so even when a post was made the next day it didn’t get anywhere near the same reach or engagement. This is shown in the graph below, which represents all of the social action from the Blazers 2016 playoff home games. Broken down by the hour, it is clear that content posted during the game, not afterwards, is what generates the most exposure for brands.

Why is all of this significant? Well think of it this way, if you have an amazing fan engagement tool, but it  requires the fan to download an app and then wait until after the game to get their pictures, it kills the buzz. First off the fan needs to waste their game time downloading and setting up the app, which creates a barrier-to-use (less usage). Then after the game, any picture that gets posted will be “old” and not as relevant to what is happening in that moment (less reach & engagement). These two aspects combined lead to much less social activity and inevitably less sponsorship value.

Portland’s activation is a huge step forward for the NBA. They see the value in a fan engagement platform that works in real time, is easy for fans to adopt and generates authentic engagement for brands. With so many entertainment options available to consumers, the league is taking a proactive approach to boosting their game day experience and giving the fans what they’ve always wanted.

The Blazers are just scratching the surface of digital sponsorship’s potential. This activation makes it very clear that the industry is changing and will now be focused on sponsored fan-centric content to maximize their sponsorship revenue. As this trend grows, you will see a snowball effect as more teams jump on-board, eventually becoming common-place in sports stadiums everywhere.