As one of the most popular teams in the NBA, the Golden State Warriors have a surplus of fans and followers from across the world. In an effort to cultivate more personalized connections with fans, though, the Warriors’ digital department has shifted some of its attention to a more intimate mode of communication: Viber.
The instant messaging and calling app is powered by Japanese tech company Rakuten and is the official app partner of the Warriors. Through the partnership, fans can take advantage of features including sticker packs, weekly trivia contests and an official Warriors chatbot that provides information like game schedules, score updates, and team content.
“The NBA is very attractive from an international fan base perspective, so from the Warriors’ perspective, we want to participate in that conversation where it feels natural,” said Jeremy Thum, senior director of digital experience at the Warriors. “Fans with a mobile device have access to information anytime, anywhere. Sports teams and, hopefully, the Warriors, are a passion brand, and there is an interest in following along at the convenience of the fan.”
The Warriors and Viber are now in the second year of their partnership, but the Warriors have been able to capitalize on Viber’s diverse user-base from the very beginning.
“There is an existing user base of the Rakuten Viber messaging app in markets that the Warriors’ brand has not seen quite as much penetration in, and that is attractive to us,” Thum said.
The Warriors’ chatbot has 550,000 subscribers and is available in multiple languages, which plays into the Warriors’ dedication to being a global franchise.
“The great thing is we can communicate directly with those fans in markets that are different from markets traditionally known as NBA markets, or outside of the traditional Golden State Warriors fans,” said Bridget Rusk, business development and partnerships director at Viber. “We are able to communicate in their local language.”
The messaging aspect is important when it comes to humanizing the Warriors’ brand and creating two-way engagements with fans around the globe.
“Messaging apps try to perpetuate engagement on gamedays and non-gamedays, and it’s a way for teams or leagues or influencers to keep momentum around fan experiences,” said Rusk. “What we’re seeing is that messaging is serving as the primary platform for sharing information and thoughts and feelings with fans’ closest friends and family. They tap into that, and they share with people they love.”
Viber’s expertise as a messaging provider proved to be especially beneficial when it came time for the Warriors to release their sticker packs, which feature players, coaches and team logos.
“If we had launched this alone, we may not have understood, as a first user, the importance of the use of stickers by the existing Viber user base,” said Thum. “We’ve been able to create and showcase the players and their personalities, which allows fans to have conversations with their friends and family utilizing Warriors imagery in a fun and cool way.”
Viber also strives to offer more than the traditional messaging app by “gamifying” the fan experience and driving fan interactions with features like Weekly Trivia, where fans can challenge their friends in Warriors trivia contests.
“This interactivity, especially with Tuesday Trivia, feels sort of like a game or competition, and it’s fun,” Thum said.
“People, by nature, are competitive, so to be able to play a game and have fun and compete with friends is naturally something people want to spend their time doing,” added Rusk.
Between chatbots, sticker packs and interactive games, messaging apps like Viber stand out from social media platforms by offering a distinct method of reaching fans.
“With social media, it’s amazing to me because it hasn’t been around that long, but it feels like it’s reaching its maturity in terms of how brands use it,” Thum said. “But messaging still feels like we’re still figuring it out, and it’s an exciting, different way of communicating. The one-to-one basis, small group-chat type of interaction is increasing, so for our brand to step into that in an authentic way is exciting, and it feels like the early days on social.”
Thum pointed out that, although the Viber partnership signals a newfound emphasis on messaging, the Warriors are still just as dedicated to their social presence as always.
With this relatively new shift toward messaging, though, it’s crucial for the Warriors to be in the loop at various stages of Viber’s development process so the organizations can collaborate on how to better serve fans.
“The great thing about the partnership is we get to work with Viber on the platform with updates and get to understand the product roadmap and see how we can take advantage of that for keeping our fan base engaged,” Thum said.
“We’re constantly evolving this experience and adding to it,” Rusk added. “One feature that will be out very soon is a personalized chatbot experience so users can personalize the content feed with the type of content they want and how regularly they want to receive it. The second is utilizing a product launched last year called Communities, which essentially is the ability for users to join into a large conversation, or to follow along with content like the content feed experience.”
The latest Viber rollout allows fans to connect with team personnel in a unique way with Warriors’ assistant coach Mike Brown taking part in a Q&A session with questions submitted by fans via the Viber chatbot.
Personalized experiences like those are instrumental in providing fans the opportunity to connect with teams beyond simply watching games on TV.
“It feels more authentic,” Thum said. “We’re able to create a feeling that, if you’re interacting with the Warriors’ brand on a one-to-one basis, that touchpoint is different than having a message that’s intended for millions.”