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Why Social Media Adds a Whole New Dimension to Live Sporting Events

Why Social Media Adds a Whole New Dimension to Live Sporting Events
Xavier Villarmarzo

Back in 2010, Game 7 of the NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics set a then-record number of 3,085 tweets per second, or over 185,000 tweets per minute. At the time, though, Twitter generated 750 tweets per second on an average day.

Today, just three years later, Twitter’s revenue has grown ten-fold, thanks to a huge boom in active users. In fact, there are now 9,100 tweets per second on the average. That means that the platform is not just for the tech savvy; many “average Joes” take to the Twitter stream to vent, rant and ramble. One of the most popular times the general public tweets is during live television events, such as the Super Bowl, the Oscars or the Grammys.

The most recent event to fit the aforementioned criteria was the 2013 NBA Finals, which saw the Miami Heat win its second consecutive title after a grueling seven-game series against the San Antonio Spurs. Unlike the other live television events, the NBA Finals provided not one, but seven opportunities for a national audience.

In an era driven by social media, people are now alerted to very close or potentially historic sports moments via their social streams, which leads them to turn on the TV or however they watch the game. That can explain why Games 2 through 5 drew average ratings. They were not very exciting, as the Spurs and Heat exchanged blowout wins. However, on June 18, 2013, Game 6 drew a television audience of over 20 million, and the deciding Game 7 just two days later was the second-highest rated NBA game in ABC history. Both of those games came down to the wire. Once the number of eyes on the game increased, so did the number of tweets relating to the game, especially tweets relating to the top players or story lines.

According to Topsy, a social analytics company, Twitter mentions of the NBA Final rose from 134,604 mentions on the day of Game 5 to 396,811 on the day of Game 6, which was very close game throughout and was highlighted by veteran Ray Allen’s game-tying three-pointer. Before the game, there were about 58,000 Twitter mentions of Allen. After the game, that number dramatically rose to 385,000.

Game 6 also saw the ever-popular LeBron James go on a fourth-quarter tear that erased a ten-point deficit. Mentions of James rose from nearly 260,000 on the day of Game 5 to over 1.6 million on the day of Game 6. The subplot to that tear was that it coincided with James losing his infamous headband and not putting it back on. Twitter – as well as other social platforms – went ablaze with mentions of the headband. The word “headband” alone wasn’t event registering on Topsy’s analytics before the game and drastically rose to over 590,000 mentions.

Tier10lab has previously covered companies who take advantage of situations like these, such as Oreo’s on-the-fly Social Media ad during the infamous Super Bowl blackout. But while events like the Super Bowl and the Oscars attract a varied, general audience, the NBA Finals provides an opening for a more targeted approach to sports fans. The games themselves featured a wide array of television advertisements, but no company stood out from a social media aspect to take advantage of those mentions – not just on Twitter, but also on all the social platforms.

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