Professional Sports and Social Media

As an avid fan of both the NFL and NBA I was noticing today the differences between their social media strategies. Both leagues are very active on Twitter β€” posting several times per hour with news and information about their respective leagues. This is not a complete survey and measurement of all of their content to date, so keep in mind the small sample size and my own biases. I was most struck by the differences in who and what they choose to highlight for their followers.

Here are the last four hours of Tweets from the NBA, starting with the most recent:

The content is very focused on the players, but not just their individual game highlights. We have: Β 

  • A human interest story about Anthony Davis
  • Pascal Siakam talking about his favorite restaurant in Toronto
  • The NBA clinic in London
  • A promo for the Knicks/Wizards game which highlights the shoes the players will be wearing

Now, contrast this content with the NFL:Β 

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So the NFL highlights a lot of personnel announcements (it’s the offseason for most of the teams in the league, so I guess this is understandable.) But they also do very little to highlight the players as individuals. No human interest-type content. If a player is mentioned, it is about stats or game highlights. It reads like a Twitter version of ESPN’s NFL coverage, with aggressive commentators yelling very important takes at me about sportsball.Β 

They also posted this:Β 

But it’s just a photo of the Q&A, no actual video of the discussion.Β 

This video from two days ago about the Bears addressing gun violence in Chicago was interesting, though definitely not originally produced with social media sharing in mind:Β 

It’s pretty clear that we are not supposed to care about most individual NFL players. The on-field product is the product. We should be rooting for the laundry. Quarterbacks or start performers get named, but again it’s only about the on field play or matchup.Β 

Other things I noticed:Β 

  • NFL video content is very heavily produced, or ripped straight from a television broadcast (either the NFL Network or one of their broadcast partners). NBA content contains more video captured from mobile devices, because it was spontaneous or because it was being created specifically for sharing social media.Β 
  • The social media for each NFL team does do a bit more in highlighting individual players, and their fans and communities. My Seahawks do like to have a bit of fun:Β 

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What are the takeaways? Given how little time and thought I put into this, I’m not sure. It’s does seem clear that the two leagues have very different ideas of how to promote their products. At the league level, the NBA is perfectly comfortable highlighting their players as individuals, and having us get invested in the various league storylines. Not just showing us packaged segments of highlights, but what players eat, how they dress, and what they care about outside of basketball.

The NFL is decidedly less interested in their individual players, at least from the league office (the teams generally manage their own social media, employing a mixed bag of strategies.) The NFL is about game highlights, strategy, and stats β€” with mic’d up players yelling while they deal out some pain to an opponent.Β 

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