The NBA All-Star Game, often critiqued for the lack of defense exhibited by its participants, was the final act of an All-Star weekend that was on the offensive in using social media to expand and connect with its audience.
The game came on the heels of All-Star Saturday Night, which tied the second-highest television rating in the event's history, second only to the 2009 broadcast. And while the NBA strives for high television ratings, it has also made a push for second-screen connections with its expanding global audience. This was the first year in which fans decided—either by tweeting the hashtag #SpriteSlam and their favorite dunker, through text message or on NBA.com—who would win the annual slam dunk contest. Over 3 million votes from around the world determined that the Utah Jazz' Jeremy Evans was worth of the trophy.
On Sunday, the All-Star game received over 232,207 total mentions on Twitter, according to the NBA's All-Star Pulse microsite. LeBron James and game MVP Kevin Durant received 98,876 mentions and 74,687 mentions, respectively.
Many of those tweets were sent by an international audience. Thanks in part to the recent surge in popularity of the Knicks' point guard Jeremy Lin, the NBA has also expanded dramatically in Asia. "Last year, we had 1 million fans in China following us on social media. This year we have 41 million," said Matt Brabants, NBA senior VP of international media distribution. Beyond China, the NBA puts its reach at 200 million fans globally through Twitter and 14 international Facebook pages, reports the Orlando Sentinel.
But with audience expansion comes the need for engagement. How can the NBA keep its 200 million international followers engaged and active for the rest of the season? Stephanie Agresta, EVP, managing director of social media for Weber Shandwick, says sustaining this new community will require localized online community management resources and country-specific content, across multiple social networks. "The key to continued success with these global consumers is to engage in their language, with influencers they relate to and with content and stories that speak to their experience."
As the NBA starts the second half of the season, time will tell if the last few months were just a blip on the social media radar screen.
Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg