Check Into The NBA From Anywhere
NBA Turnstile offers fans the ability to connect to social media platforms from anywhere.
by Kyle Stack / @KyleStack
Tech-savvy NBA fans will no longer have to attend games to reap all the benefits from geolocation social media services, such as Foursquare. Now, they can simply watch a game on TV or on their laptop to find the same value as being at a game.
NBA Digital announced on October 20 the launch of NBA Turnstile, a platform which allows fans to check in to games in-person or through a digital device. In doing so, they’ll be able to connect to social media platforms Foursquare, Gowalla, Twitter, Facebook and FanVibe. It’s achieved by accessing NBA Game Time, which is the NBA’s mobile application that provides video highlights, scores, statistics and player information on iPhone and Android devices.
The program evolved from the NBA’s first-time use of Foursquare and Gowalla during the NBA Finals last June, said Bryan Perez, Senior Vice President and General Manager of NBA Digital.
“It’s really an extension of two things where we’re very committed: One is in mobile and one is in social media,” Perez said by phone from his office in Atlanta.
NBA Digital turned to FanVibe to help develop the application. The San Francisco-based company offers score updates from a variety of sports leagues, lets users interact with each other and permits them to compete for prizes such as tickets and merchandise. The same is practiced on Turnstile. By connecting to the social media platforms like Twitter or Foursqare, Turnstile lets users compete against each other to unlock virtual badges, earn prizes and receive special discounts.
Perez emphasized that the importance of this application means the League’s broadcast partners, ESPN/ABC and TNT, and NBA TV can help lead viewers to Turnstile. He cited an example where a host or an analyst on NBA TV will tell viewers to use their Game Time mobile application to check in for Fan Night, which airs on the network every Tuesday.
Opening up Turnstile to TV partners also added value for the League’s and the network’s sponsors. “We’re having conversations with all of our sponsors right now,” Perez said. “We’re seeing excitement about what’s possible with this.”
The program certainly provides another way for the NBA’s most social media-conscious fans to engage with its brand at a deeper level.
“It makes the whole NBA experience for a fan a game in itself,” said Liz Barrett, Strategic Consultant at Sports Media Challenge, a Charlotte-located consultant which provides media and communication training to athletes, coaches and other sports professionals. “It’s like a loyalty card.”
While the advantages are apparent, there are concerns about a multi-platform check-in application which has never been attempted in professional sports.
“I always worry when a brand tries to take an industry that exists and tries to create its own version of it,” said AJ Vaynerchuk, co-founder of Vayner Media, a New York City-based brand consulting agency with a focus on social media. In this case, he expressed concern about a brand building its own platform rather than leveraging an established one.
Vaynerchuk conceded that the NBA made a wise move in partnering with FanVibe. “It’s smart to get someone with the technology [to make the application work],” he said.
While the specific prizes and rewards are yet to be determined in their entirety — participating teams, of which there are several, can create different badges to award to fans — Perez stated optimism at possible positive affects on game attendance. “Anything that’s increasing fan engagement and loyalty has a great opportunity to drive attendance,” Perez said.
Another smart move of the program, pointed out by Vaynerchuk, is that fans can often experience reception problems on their cell phones when attending sports events. A fan’s ability to check in from his couch at home opens up the possibility for social media novices and experts alike to interact. “Any additional content and any sense of community that this can provide is the benefit,” Vanerchuk said.
And Perez continued his optimism about the application by stating the League expected the level of participation to be “extraordinarily high.” It might take time for the League to figure out exactly what it wants to do with the program, and to assess its advantages and disadvantages. Yet there’s no argument the NBA continues to advance its position as the professional sports league most willing to connect with its fans through social media.