In today’s digital day and age, sporting organizations are brands in-and-of themselves, with devout fan bases hanging on their every word, trade rumor and injury update.

Like never before, fans are talking sports.  Now, more than ever, what a sports brand communicates matters – studies show that over 80% of sports fans interact with social media sites while watching games on TV, and over 60% of fans do so while watching live events.  This shift in media consumption amongst sports fans has provided brands an opportunity to achieve success away from the game, drive consumer engagement, and maintain relevance. However, not all sporting organizations have found success communicating in today’s world.

The Boston Celtics, one of the NBA’s most storied franchises, utilizes Instagram to engage with its 1.4 million followers directly.  The social media feed is full of exclusive pre-game and post-game locker room shots that give fans an up-close-and-personal look at what it means to be a Celtic.  The Celtics’ simple, yet very effective use of social media serves to:

  • Keep fans engaged. The NBA is one of the busier leagues in professional sports, with teams playing 82 regular season games at the very least.  Fans aren’t able to catch every game, let alone all of the pre-game and post-game coverage and analysis.  The Celtics’ social media team, quite simply, keeps fans in the loop, sharing the latest insight in everything from game results to press conferences to locker room hijinks.
  • Convey a message of strength in numbers. Anyone who’s a Celtics fan is part of a greater community that extends beyond the locker room and the city of Boston.  Whether you’re Isiah Thomas, the Celtics’ MVP point guard, a fan from Boston, or a fan on the other side of the world you’re a part of the team – Celtics fans all bleed green.
  • Maintain relevance. The Celtics, one of the NBA’s most storied franchises, isn’t showing their age.  They’re winning both on and off the court, and are one of a handful of teams that are synonymous with the NBA.

Another storied NBA franchise, the New York Knicks, has experienced less success with communications than their Eastern Conference counterparts.  The Knicks are notorious for maintaining one of the least successful off-the-court operations in the league.  In the 2016-2017 season alone, the Knicks have had the following blunders:

  • The Knicks’ owner cursed at fans outside of Madison Square Garden, one of the most famous arenas in sports history and an icon of the NBA.
  • The Knicks’ owner had a fan-favorite former player ejected from a game live on television. With the cameras rolling, the former Knickerbocker was physically removed from Madison Square Garden without reason.  The franchise owner subsequently went on a media tirade, doubling-down on his actions by alleging that the former Knick was an alcoholic, was drunk while attending the game, and was violet with security prior to removal – none were true.
  • The Knicks’ president utilized social and traditional media to voice his displeasure with one of the Knicks’ current players – more specifically, he used various microphones, so to speak, to chase the player out of town. The player in question happens to be the team’s superstar and a fan-favorite, as well as the highest paid player on the team.  Despite backlash from fans, organizations designed to protect players, and players themselves the Knicks’ president doubled and tripled-down on his strategy.

The Knicks, once a team synonymous with the NBA, has faded into obscurity and ridicule despite the bright lights of Manhattan.  Players don’t want to play in New York and, most importantly, fans are fed up.  The organization is a mess, with the ability to interact with fans and media instantly in today’s digital age only making it easier to deal self-inflicted wounds.

Media, both traditional and social, is of the utmost importance to sports organizations in 2017 and beyond – the ability to communicate at a level never available before provides organizations the opportunity to make or break themselves.

What do you feel your favorite sports teams should be doing to better communicate with you via social media?