If you want to see some best-in-class uses of social media for branding, look no further than the National Basketball Association, which has been more forward-thinking in embracing digital and social media than any other professional sports league. From having its annual slam-dunk contest decided by Twitter in 2012 to embracing YouTube and publishing its video content there since 2005 (amassing 568,146 subscribers and 780 million video views on YouTube compared to Major League Baseball's 4,559 subscribers and 1.8 million, respectively) and encouraging its players to be active on social media, the league has provided fans with content and personal updates across multiple channels.
In an effort to further popularize the league's social media presence the NBA has launched its "Has Handle" series of T-shirts featuring players' Twitter handles. The shirts, available at NBAStore.com, feature a hashtag with the team's logo on the front; on the back, the player's Twitter handle appears above his uniform number.
The NBA has more than 4.5 million Twitter followers, and more than NBA 350 players are active Twitter, according to the Associated Press. Not surprisingly, the shirts feature the handles of some of the league's most dominant superstars and most active players on Twitter, including Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul.
Similar to how the league has tried to incorporate the reading of Twitter posts into its television broadcasts, the T-shirts are the latest effort to connect the digital world with the traditional elements of the NBA. And while selling T-shirts is a business opportunity in of itself for the NBA, the "Has Handle" line aims to pique the interest of more fans—especially those at games—to follow the teams and players on Twitter and further engage with the league.
Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg