Yes, that featured image is me posing with a cardboard cutout of Steph Curry. And before you ask, yes, he is mine, he lives in my dorm room, and he was a Christmas present. I swear, though, I’m not that weird–I just take my dedication to ironic comedy a little too seriously and also just realllllllly like the Golden State Warriors, but I think you’ve all picked up on that already.
As I explained to you all in my presentation two weeks ago, social media was a large player in the formation of my obsession with the Warriors. But it’s not just their social media that makes the franchise a standout–it’s their entire digital media and marketing strategy. Though I intend to talk at length about the Warriors’ social media strategies and successes, I’m focusing this post on the use of digital engagement within the arena, and in curation of #DubNation.
It’s more than just a game
Basketball has become a business, and franchises have to be run like the multi-million dollar companies they are–a sentiment the Warriors have fully embraced, and not without notice. The team has been named the Sports Business Journal’s Team of the Year for two of the past three years, and co-owner Joe Lacob was recently awarded Executive of the Year at the Sports Business Awards. But they’re not just being recognized in the sports community–the Warriors were honored with the 2016 Stanford Entrepreneurial Company of the Year (ENCORE) Award, an award that has been previously reserved for Silicon Valley giants like Apple, Netflix, and Amazon. In presenting the award, Stanford highlighted the Warriors’ as “redefining sports management, pioneering the use of sports analytics in the NBA, and adopting new technologies that have transformed the fan experience.”
The Warriors have made social and digital engagement a priority; they’ve hired Silicon Valley gurus, young social media experts, and have restructured their organization to put an emphasis on real time engagement and analytics.
Bringing the valley into the arena
Characteristic of their Silicon Valley locale, the Golden State Warriors have pioneered the use of advanced technologies within their own arena to engage fans attending the game. One of their most recent developments are sensors
installed throughout Oracle Arena (the Warriors’ home court, affectionately referred to as ‘Roaracle’) that links to fans’ phones that are within range to display promotional messages, offer discounts for shops the fans are near, and even send fans a video message from a team member welcoming fans to the arena through the Warriors app. The sensors also help create data of the most frequently visited locations within the arena. Another crowd favorite is the instagram wall, which features a rotational display of instagram posts from fans using the Oracle Arena geotag or the #WarriorsGround hashtag.
The team was even the first in the league to introduce app functionalities for Google Glass, which allows fans to watch the game while simultaneously referencing game and player stats. Vice President of Digital and Marketing, Kenny Lauer, has continuously spoken of the importance of data and digital in engaging fans, and takes pride in the franchise’s ability to take risks when it comes to data & tech. What allows them to take these risks, he says, is not just the Silicon Valley mindset, but the use of the franchise’s D-League team, the Santa Cruz Warriors, as test subjects for bigger campaigns for Oracle.
Anyone who paid attention to the NBA finals in the past two years has seen the Strength in Numbers campaign–it’s been plastered onto every billboard and tee shirt, and hashtagged in every tweet and instagram since the fan-made mantra was adopted by the Warriors during the 2014-2015 season. In basketball, Strength in Numbers refers to the idea of a team that doesn’t just have a few superstars that carry the team, but relies on each individual team member for an impactful contribution. Through incorporating the slogan into YouTube specials, short video campaigns, and media posts, it’s been leveraged to represent the Warriors brand as a whole–inclusive, egalitarian, and a community in which the sum is greater than its individual parts. It’s a motto they’ve embraced both on and off the court, as the franchise actively seeks to engage their entire fan base and continuously emphasizes the importance of fans’ voices and contributions to the Warriors franchise. The mantra is symbolic of the Warriors’ dedication to creating a fan experience, beyond just 48 minutes.
Part of the #StrengthinNumbers campaign has even been an online photo editing app which allows fans to upload photos of themselves and add the tally marks (featured in the “M” of ‘numbers’ & representative of the franchise’s 5 NBA titles) to represent the fan’s individual tie to the team, which are then featured at various home games as an interactive way to again showcase the importance of the Warriors’ fanbase.
They’ve also leveraged the campaign to push the Warriors Community Foundation agenda, which aims to perform various community service acts throughout the Bay Area and has been largely successful over the past few years. It’s an incredible example of how the Warriors have been able to seamlessly unite their on and off court efforts, creating a brand and a community fans can identify with, even in the off season.
Though ‘Roaracle’ boasts the biggest homecourt advantage and loudest crowd in the NBA, fans who can make it to games aren’t enough–and that’s where social media comes in. The Warriors’ social media team (all hail @JuliePhayer) has done an incredible job of keeping fans around the world feeling as though they’re right in the Bay Area. But let’s save that for another day…