As the global COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the spring of 2020, two North American professional sports leagues, the National Basketball Association and the National Lacrosse League, were impacted in so many different ways. Yet, in the face of adversity, they shared a few key common strategies on moving forward and maintaining connection and engagement with their legions of passionate fans.
The stories of how these two organizations have successfully met the coronavirus hiatus to maintain — and even grow — engagement with fans can inspire other sports leagues facing similar challenges this year. They also served as the backdrop for the Greenfly-hosted, Unlock Your Sports Content to Build Global Fan Engagement and Brand Value panel at the Hashtag Sports VRTL 2020 event.
Bob Carney, Senior Vice President of Digital & Social Content at the NBA, joined the National Lacrosse League’s VP of Marketing, Katie Lavin, and Greenfly’s CEO Daniel Kirschner on the panel. Sophie Goldschmidt, Adviser and former CEO of World Surf League, moderated the lively discussion.
Carney and Lavin discussed how they’ve each reimagined the global fan experience during the pandemic by collecting and distributing the authentic content and special moments fans wanted from their favorite athletes and teams. The NBA did it during the league’s season stoppage and when it resumed abbreviated play in the ‘bubble’ and through the Finals. These videos and photos have been able to reach over 1.6 billion social followers between the league, teams and athletes. The league developed a content plan to leverage the features available across every social platform to entertain and engage fans.
Meanwhile, the NLL wanted to continue its off-season marketing momentum. Lavin’s team focused on gathering and sharing athlete content to engage fans in the aftermath of its own shortened indoor lacrosse season. And they did it leading up to and during the NLL’s recent virtual Entry Draft, as it awaits the opportunity to resume play as well.
Kirschner noted that he has seen sports organizations across the industry look to social media more to engage fans at home in different ways and replicate the sense of community that leagues typically capture during live games. He expected that to continue even as fans return to stadiums and other venues and share more stories.
The panelists also spoke about the rapid evolution of fan-generated content across the various social platforms and how that has helped generate anticipation and excitement around key moments.
In terms of surprises they’ve encountered during this time, Lavin mentioned the success of serving fans curated NLL archival footage from throughout its over 35-year history. Carney shared how “unintentionally, incredibly well-prepared” his team was to create content during a pandemic. This was due to having the right technology partner tools in place to continue collaborating, creating and clipping content at the speed, quality and volume it did before the pandemic, so that engagement levels didn’t drop. Both executives spoke of how they have used Greenfly to deliver content to fans seamlessly and simultaneously boost their brands.
Watch the full panel discussion below.