NBA and Twitter Team Up to Bring “Virtual Sports Bar” to Life

Jun 5, 2019; Oakland, CA, USA; James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett perform the national anthem before game three of the 2019 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Toronto Raptors at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
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Photo Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

As the NBA Finals shifted from Toronto to Oakland, basketball’s best players not only shifted venues, but so did some of the sport’s best Twitter personalities.

While Kawhi Leonard and Steph Curry faced off on the court on Wednesday in game three of the finals at Oracle Arena in Oakland, top influencers like Ronnie Singh – the de facto face of the popular NBA2K video game who posts under the tag @Ronnie2K – and Victoria Jacobi – a well-known basketball personality who uses the handle @CountOnVic – fired off tweets about the game from a suite inside Oracle Arena.

The presence of these highly-visible members of #NBATwitter, the organic community filled with fans and personalities around the sport that drive conversation literally year-round, stemmed from the deep partnership between the NBA and Twitter.

Sam Farber, the NBA’s vice president of digital media, said the strategy around the activation was two-fold: bring together some of the most powerful members of #NBATwitter community at the same time and place, while rewarding other fans who also contribute to the social media conversation around the sport – those fans were invited via surprise direct messages by Twitter.

The group sat in Twitter-branded “Tweet Suites” at both Scotiabank Arena in Toronto and Oracle Arena in Oakland for games two and three. For Sunday night’s game in Toronto, selected members of the group included Rob “World Wide Wob” Perez of The Action Network and Taylor Rooks of Bleacher Report.

“The idea was everybody meet against the backdrop of a Finals game – then create amazing content together on Twitter,” said Farber. “And that’s exactly what happened.”

Farber noted the influence of #NBATwitter saying it has become its own “living, breathing organism” with a life of its own beyond the league.

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Game 2 tweets from personalities such as Rooks and Zach Harper of The Athletic uniquely captured the rabid atmosphere in Toronto, where the Raptors were vying for the country’s first NBA title.

TJ Adeshola, Twitter’s head of U.S. sports partnerships, noted #NBATwitter has evolved into a “virtual sports bar” where everyone from fans/media to players/coaches discuss all things NBA together.

“It isn’t just hoops either. It’s about the lifestyle — the shoes, the fashion, the music. NBA Twitter is for the culture,” Adeshola said.

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Inviting both influencers and fans to create social content from one of the country’s biggest sporting events is a “brilliant” way to show off the power of Twitter and the sport, says marketing consultant Ernest Lupinacci.

Twitter helps grow the NBA — and the NBA helps grow Twitter. Many wired consumers now experience big TV events like the NBA Finals, Super Bowl or Oscars through conversation on their second screens, noted Lupinacci, a former ad copywriter turned Hollywood scriptwriter and founder of Ernest Industries – the #NBATwitter phenomenon takes that dynamic to the next level.

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NBA Insiders such as Chris Haynes of Yahoo and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN are year-round must-follows as hoops fans devour every morsel about player news, trades and free agency. #NBATwitter has helped create hip young stars like World Wide Wob, who blend humor with their opinion and hoops analysis.

The world of NBA influencers has verticals upon verticals, but they almost never interact in person. Watching them hanging in suites this week was “pretty amazing,” said Farber.

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