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Nike Basketball's Beautiful Facebook Timeline In Time for NBA Playoffs

Just a terrific, creative and well-timed use of the Facebook Timeline by Nike Basketball. Coinciding with the NBA Playoffs - and a handful of new sneakers for top stars like Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant - Nike Basketball is releasing a series of basketball rules: "Every EPIC moment has a story. And every story has a lesson. Lesson No. 1: The deeper the bench. The stronger the squad." Each rule is placed atop a basketball poster that ties into the playoffs and relevant players. Two or three rules are posted a day (so far, 38 rules and posters have been loaded). Nike also mixes in other timely promos like a congratulations to Lebron James for his MVP award and this graphic for the evening's Lakers / Thunder game:

It's clever, fun, on brand and highly visual - which means it is highly engaging on Facebook. It is also something that only Nike can do (the talent, the imagery and the production) and something that really can only be done on Facebook and with Facebook Timeline (no offense to Twitter, but this would be neither as effective nor engaging).

Twitter's Role in the NBA Lockout. Fascinating.

Sports fans today got a Black Friday present: the 149 day NBA lockout is on the verge on ending. And the result is a good thing for fans: the season will be 66 games (a better result than the normal 82!), result in greater league parity (ala the NFL), lead to a healthier league (good for everyone), and create a whirlwind December free agency period (the surprisingly great outcome of the NFL lockout). The lockout was painful, mismanaged on both sides and generally could have been avoided... or at least handled far differently and far earlier. But the 2011-2012 season is saved and hopefully goodness comes from the ugly.

One of the most interesting and overlooked aspects was the role Twitter played in a world where:

- players couldn't communicate with the league

- players themselves were not entirely knowledgeable of the latest events / outcomes

- both sides were feeling significant pressure from the public (pressure is a soft word here for disgust for most and hate for some)

- both sides were starved for communication outlets

So everyone took the Twitter: the league, the owners and the players. Some were trying to position themselves, some trying to save face and others trying to voice their opinion in a public manner (since it wasn't being heard privately). Fascinating.

So why Twitter was so important here? First, the NBA and its players could feel the public's disgust... far more publicly. In prior strikes / lockouts, the fans didn't have as much power as they do today. And in prior situations, nobody had the outlets they do today: players and owners were able to immediately express frustration, anger, etc... and to huge audiences. The result was a very public negotiation that made many of those involved come across as confused, desperate, disjointed and/or displeased.

Nevertheless, it provided a platform for all constituents to amplify their voice... and to listen. And while that was debatably an effective / ineffective exercise - it was terrifically powerful for the fans.

Here are some examples:

Miami Heat owner Micky Arison (@mickyarison) took to Twitter to express his thankfulness to his fans. This was retweeted by the NBA (@nba). Takeaway: comes across as desperate.

NBA player Luis Scola (@lscola4) took to Twitter at a time when there was debate within the players union as to whether they should pass the league's proposal. There players were beginning to fracture and many had expressed confusion over the proposal's specifics. In one of these tweets, Luis asks the NBA a question directly and publicly. Takeaway: shows player disjointedness and general player confusion with process / outcome... which shows weakness.

Here's an example of Chris Sheridan (former ESPN NBA writer) and Luis. Chris posted a critical piece about the lockout and Luis retweeted it. Takeaway: fascinating as it shows the players are reading the commentary and clearly trying to share certain opinions.

This is my favorite one. The NBA took to Twitter to do a fan Q&A session about the lockout. It was in an effort to engage fans, show appreciation and help communicate... but it was a terrible idea (and I'm shocked anyone in PR allowed this to happen). It lead to fans spewing negativity, players tweeting questions, and the league being forced to answer uncomofortable questions. Takeaway: trying to do something positive but no an intelligent move. Demonstrates Common Oversight of Mobile E-Commerce / Promotion

If you read me regularly, you know that I have a major pet peeve around unoptimized (and often dysfunctional) mobile experiences. So often mobile is treated an extension of the web experience and that results in broken mobile experiences... and since so much of our content consumption is on mobile devices, the lack of attention to the mobile experience is both frustrating and foolish. Great example here from the NBA (who I have had lots of social advice for!):

The NBA has 3,000,000+ Twitter followers.

40% of Twitter's users access the service via mobile (not the web).

The NBA tweets a link to the newest pair of Nike Air Jordan 8.0 shoes:

Great promotion right? When you click on the link, the NBA Store automatically redirects all mobile traffic to a defaulted storefront / homepage. And thus the frustration: 40% of those who clicked the URL, with the hope of arriving on a specific piece of content, had to give up and exit.

Also funny, when you go the URL from your browser, you get another frustrating experience: a totally untargetted promotion (hello Canadian users!):

11 Ways to Usher the NFL, NBA, MLB into the New Web

I am a sports nut. That shouldn't be news if you follow me here or on Twitter / Facebook. I also spend my professional life on the web and looking at new technologies. In part because it is fun to think about - and in part due to personal frustrations - I'll put those two together and brainstorm how the major leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB) should improve their online product. Note: obviously there are significant issues: content rights, ownership, players unions, etc. Let's make the (ridiculous!) assumption those don't come into play or that everyone wakes up and agrees these are important for leagues' future health (NBA and MLB more so than the NFL).

1. Get an online identity.

Sounds simple and the below ideas are clearly focused on helping drive an identity. But look at these screenshots from and I have no idea why I would visit these sites as opposed to or Twitter. They are mixtures of ads, promotions, stores, and news.

These sites are highly trafficked (see August list here) - but in August (when interest is at its max) still represents just 40% of Yahoo's traffic and 50% of ESPN's. The brand is obviously there but the sites are not much more than navigational hubs.

The below ideas hopefully help create an identity and a reason for fans to visit and engage with their online properties.

2. That identity should be social.

I believe these websites should have four primary goals - probably in this order:

A. Promote the league, teams, players and partners. B. Engage the fans. C. Covert visitors to new properties / touch points: Twitter Followers, Facebook Fans, mobile users, etc.... recognize that fan activity is far broader than on your site. D. Drive revenue (store, ads, etc)

The best way to directly drive points 'B' and 'C' and to indirectly impact 'A' and 'D' is by fully integrating social. More on the next point. But at the highest level, this means that the league sites should look more like a robust, branded Facebook Fan Page and less like your local newspaper site. Content should be dynamic, personalized and interact-able... not flat like your a local news article.

3. View me as an individual fan. Not a pageview.

Step 1 in making the sites more social is to view users as individuals... not as pageviews. How? Lets reimagine what could be:

- via Facebook Connect, it recognizes my identity and prompts me to Like the NFL on FB - it then asks me to like my favorite team(s) - by 'liking', I automatically subscribe to team's Facebook page (already subscribed to NFL) - now can feature content specifically crafted to my preferences and to my Facebook friends - And they can quickly translate this from league to team to players

Those 20M uniques in August are suddenly *much* more valuable as connected users. And those 20M uniques are just the tip of the traffic iceberg... why? Those users are now:

- They are viral (hello Facebook Ticker!)

- They are shareable: instantly the NFL can have massive followings on Facebook & Twitter and can share that traffic with their teams.

- They are engageable: once you have users become fans / followers, the league can more effectively / efficiently engage with fans (and market / promote).

And now content flow can go both ways: on and off Just look at the Washington Post Social Reader as a good example.

4. Welcome social media. Don't fear it. In fact, mandate it.

Encourage teams and players to use social media. Hell, mandate it. In the above example, you could have a Facebook page with 10M Dallas Cowboys fans. That's as powerful as the team makes it.

Each team should have an official Facebook Page and Twitter account that is consistently named, branded, etc. The page should aggregate / promote the Facebook / Twitter pages of its players.

Fans should be able to subscribe to entire teams through a single follow button (ie a Dallas Cowboys officially curated Twitter list).

The league and its teams will clearly worry about player etiquette on Facebook & Twitter. But: they are going to use the platforms whether or not the league likes it... and the players will listen (and behave) if they appreciate the power of building a following & brand via social media. Bring in industry leaders to give crash courses in social. Make it a mandatory part of the rookie symposiums.

The end result:

- dynamic content that is unique to each league / team (unlike their news clippings) - bigger followings for the league, team and players - real-time connections with fans who are now more deeply engaged - more control by the league and team

5. View the league as a set of teams. And teams as a set of players.

Connected to the two points above, think of the league sites as a collection of teams. And while it is the league's duty to deliver league-wide news and promotions, it is also beneficial to promote each team. The above examples accomplished: - building a social following for the league itself - using that to promote individual teams - and then using each team to promote its own brand and players

ESPN is beginning to figure this out with their personalities. See example here.

And just as the league should promote horizontally - the teams should also be asked to connect to others. Lightweight ways include:

- making sure all mentions are linkable (seems simple but so rarely done) - official pages include links to other teams (on Facebook via favorite pages, Twitter via Lists)

6. Every league & team should hire a czar.

See the above screenshot. Enough said.

7. Go mobile.

The leagues are getting quite good at standalone apps (particularly MLB). But the same approach to social should be applied to mobile:

- There should be league apps. - There should be standardized team apps.

Note: why team apps? for starters, the experience is better within a single app and the team can more proactively tailor content and brand. Secondly, traffic will be better (app store findability, promotion through team fan pages, etc).

- Those team apps should feature dynamic content beyond the box score (everyone has that). - Leverage the above points to showcase team and player content - Allow users to engage directly: follow, post, like, Q&A, etc. - Deliver push notifications: alerts from favorite player. Scores. Injuries. Etc.

Those stand-alone apps should also pertain to in-stadium experiences / promotions. That obviously requires 3G and/or wifi to work in stadiums... which is a leap of faith today.

8. Make content available.

Figure out how to get around the rights issues and make as much content available as possible. Leverage the league website, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Full game coverage: allow me to subscribe to a team or league as I can with MLB At Bat (a perennial top grossing application.

Clips: make clips available and let users remix & share them. It's a viral dream. You can even protect branding by controlling the experience either onsite or as a Facebook app.

Highlights: The NBA is great at releasing Top 10 Plays from Yesterday on their Facebook page. This becomes more powerful as their presence grows... and even more powerful as the team presences grow. My willingness to share a specific clip from my favorite team / player is far greater than from across the entire league.

9. Engage. Don't just push.

Content is now a two-way street. Build experiences that encourage interaction by fans. And encourage personalities to be interactive. Learn from CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell - who really phenomenal on Twitter.

10. Welcome ESPN and the new media. 11. Similarly, concede what you won't win.

Figure out strategically where it makes sense to leverage other properties and brands. In many cases, collaboration / aggregation will create a better product (again, see Washington Post's Social Reader which incorporates content beyond

In other cases, it will allow the leagues to redeploy resources, focus elsewhere and still roll out better products. For instance, is the NFL really going to win fantasy sports? That's ESPN's domain. Work together and build ancillary products that support the experience and league.

More reading:

- ESPN Brings Twitter into Fantasy Football App. Getting Closer. - Much to Learn from the NBA’s Facebook Fan Page - My Response to Mark Cuban’s: Does Have a Twitter Problem? - ESPN’s Mobile Application Strategy (and Ad Campaign to Match)

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Much to Learn from the NBA's Facebook Fan Page

When asked who does the best job of managing their Facebook page and community, I recommend looking at two pages:- for e-commerce: ShoeDazzle (and yes, it's a Polaris company) - for media and big brand: the NBA The NBA does a fantastic job of updating the page daily and engaging fans with questions, polls, and timely / unique content (such as the "5 Best Plays of the Day").

Here is a good, simple example that takes advantage of the NBA's Facebook community and their daily interactions: the NBA updates its Facebook profile picture to reflect that day's televised games. They do this each and every day. In fact, if you visit the NBA's profile picture page, you can scroll endlessly through previous profile pictures.

Today's Top Grossing iPhone Apps

Following up on yesterday's post about the impact Apple and Android are making on the gaming industry... here is a screenshot of today's top grossing iPhone Apps. A couple notes of interest: 1. The highest grossing application is free... meaning that financial success can come from 'freemium' apps

2. ... but don't overlook that it is the NBA App: massive brand and timely app (the season just started)

3. Other than the NBA, every other top grossing in the app is a game

4. Most of those games are $0.99

5 ... and the more expensive ones ($4.99 - $6.99) are associated with larger brands (ie Gameloft & Electronic Arts).

This is not to say that non-gaming applications are unable to succeed... but it is clear that pricing, brand and timing play a key role in popularity. This is precisely why Nintendo and others should be scared: the app-store has disrupted how games are played, shared and purchased ($0.99 vs. $29+). It also changes how those games are produced and marketed.

Lastly - while I find gaming interesting and fun, I would love to see other app categories crack these lists. It is already happening on the iPad... and I expect it will happen with the upcoming Chrome App Gallery.

Foursquare Teams Up with NBA for Lakers / Celtics Finals

It's part Foursquare, part Fanpulse and part ESPN / vintage InGameNow: Foursquare has teamed up with the NBA to award Celtics and Lakers badges to fans who 'check in' tonight and shout either "Go Lakers" or "Go Celtics". It is different than your typical Foursquare 'check in' in that it is determined by content rather than location... but it will clearly be a big driver of traffic and usage. And clearly the NBA is getting behind the relationship: in 53 seconds, 186 Facebook users commented on the badges and 163 others liked it.

NBA Launches Player Cam, Facebook Connect for Conference Finals

The NBA clearly has envy...And it's not a bad thing! (now if only the NFL would start experimenting)

I have written before that Major League Baseball is the only major sports league to grasp the web and really innovate with and their successful iPhone App. Well the NBA is starting to test the waters.

During tonight's Conference Finals, viewers can actually follow the game entirely on with:

nba-player-cam Four-Way Player Cams - Follow Dwight Howard or Lebron James directly - You can also choose between Robo Cam and Action Cam - Swap audio and customize the tiled screen layout (very much like - No high definition option - but you can view in full screen

Socialize with Facebook, Twitter & MySpace While watching the in-game player cams, you can login with Facebook, Twitter or MySpace and converse on The integration doesn't look great and is far from YouTube's Facebook Connect implementation, but it's a good first step and, I believe, the first pro league integration of Facebook Connect.

Sponsorship Of course, the experience is ad-supported (by Axe Dry) but the integration is slick and non-intrusive.

NBA Borrows $175M for 15 Teams ($11.66M Each)

Professional sports are not immune to the economic downturn.We saw the Arena Football League close indefinitely. MLB free agents are signing shorter, smaller deals (except for Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia). And several NBA teams are shopping star players to save money (ie the Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Hornets.

Now word comes out that the NBA has secured $175,000,000 to help support 15 teams who apparently need the assistance. It will be interesting to see how this affects the trade deadline (expect lots of major contracts to move) and this summer's free agency. The financing comes at over 8% interest - so it is clear that this was a needed move... and considering the NBA's health as compared to Major League Baseball - I wonder what will happen when (not if) MLB attendance and advertising falls... big names and contracts will move quickly and at pennies on the dollar.

The NBA is set to borrow $175 million Feb. 26, marking one of the first league financings since the implosion of the credit markets last fall. The money, which will be available to 15 teams, supplements an existing $1.7 billion leaguewide credit facility that uses the NBA's media contracts as collateral to secure loans for the clubs. The NBA surveyed its teams, and 15 responded they would like to tap into the new borrowing.

While the league said it is pleased to borrow in an extremely illiquid credit market, the deal came at a cost, with interest rates up to 8.27 percent, hammering home the notion that the era of cheap money in sports is over. The 15 teams can use the money for any purpose, but covering operating losses may be high on the list.

Each of the 15 teams can borrow a maximum of $11.66 million from the debt proceeds. -- Sports Business Journal